Reaching the 2012 Arizona Junior High Wrestling State Championships can be overwhelming for some athletes, but the Salt River wrestlers said they were ready for the competition and were anxious to get their first match under their belt. The team traveled to Marana High School for the competition, alongside 50 other teams. Salt River was placed in group G with Buckeye, Desert Foothills, Hillcrest and Mountain Sky.
Andre Enas was competing in the state tournament in his first year of participating in wrestling. He was in the 142 weight class at the start of the year, and then moved up to the 154 weight class; then he went to the 133 weight class before moving back to 142 to compete in state. Enas said he was used to competing heading into the final match and said he really wasn’t too nervous because to him it seemed like just another match.
“When I was wrestling in the 154 weight class, the guys were a lot stronger and it was a little harder to last through the periods,” he said.
Prior to heading to the state tournament, Enas set the small goal of trying to win one match.
“Wrestling is tough to do, but I like that about it and that is what makes it fun,” he said.
Enas made the jump to try wrestling and said he is happy with his decision to stick it out. He said he is looking forward to wrestling for several more years.
Lakota Scabby was a first-time wrestler on this year’s team and said it is a hard sport, but he knows he had to work hard throughout the season to improve on the mat.
“You really miss out on a lot of things because of practice and meets, and you have to really want to do it,” he said. “I think making it to state is an accomplishment for me.”
Scabby said he is proud of himself for making it through the entire season and he accomplished a small goal by competing in Marana.
Denton Miguel competed in the 125-pound weight class this season and participated in the state tournament for the second time. He said last year he was nervous, but this year he tried to calm himself down and think of good things and what he needs to do.
“The competition looked harder this year,” he said.
Miguel said one of the most challenging parts of being on the wrestling team was trying to lose weight in order to make his 125 weight class for matches. He said he believes he has learned a lot and improved over the year.
“Every meet I have seen improvement, and I have done a better job at getting my head up and getting out of situations or [moving] when I recognize certain moves happening,” Miguel explained. “It is still really hard to wrestle through three periods, but I want to continue wrestling.”
Chris Mejia was excited to compete in the state tournament, though he admitted it “feels just like any other tournament.” He said one of the most important things he had to learn throughout the season was to remain confident and trust he has been putting in the work.
For Lavell Benally, the trip to state was a little different. In the Sunkids Classic a few weeks prior, he sustained a broken collarbone in the championship match that unfortunately ended his season.
“I do not like sitting out, but after what happened I have to do what I have to do right now and heal up,” he said. “I do not feel sorry sitting here watching my teammates because I want to wrestle with them, but since I am hurt I am now supporting the team from the sidelines.”
After making it to the championships match, Benally said he felt pretty good realizing all his hard work does pay off. He said his brothers taught him if you want to reach a goal, you have to work for it because it will not be given to you.
“I have confidence in myself and I have learned a lot through the whole season I have been working at it, and especially with school. I am more disciplined to do my work and I have learned to have respect for elders and everyone. You have to earn and show respect in this sport,” he said.
Benally said he will return next year and hopes to make a charge to another championship match.
The lone varsity wrestler competing in the sectional was Blaine Hillis.In his first match, he wresled Simon Ramriez from San Pasqual and lost by fall. Then he defeated Jack Durcan from Parker by fall at the 4:21 mark. In his final match of the tournament he lost be major decision to Nico Franco from Yman Catholic. He ended the season 12-11 and remained unbeat, looking forward to his junior year next season.
“We may not look like we did last year, but every program must have its rebuilding years,” varsity coach Marc Hillis said. “I’m glad we still had the few wrestlers we did. Hopefully the high school program will gain two wrestlers off this year’s junior high squad, Chris Alaniz-Mejia and Lavell Benally. Both had good success in their eighth grade years. There are also one or two extra kids that come out of nowhere and they end up on the team.”
Hillis went on to say the team had some good things happen this year, including the junior high team gaining a great deal of wrestling experience and thus improving the future high school wrestling team.
“Our high school invitational was also a great success and should continue to be so. Everyone wants to be back that participated and a couple other teams would like to come out too,” he said. “Coach Na Humma will continue this off season with freestyle competition.”