While preparing for the sectional wrestling tournament set to take place on Feb. 4-5 at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear, Salt River High School wrestlers, Hosteen Begay-Smith, Lloyd Lewis and Monty Benally, along with the remainder of their team worked to cut weight and prepare mentally. This would be the final meet for the wrestlers if they did not advance to the 1A state tournament.
Alongside the Eagles were teams from Antelope, Bourgade, Camp Verde, Canyon State Academy, Mogollon, Parker, Phoenix Christian, San Pasqual, San Tan Foothills, Valley Christian, Valley Lutheran, Wickenburg, Yuma Catholic and Joy Christian were to set to compete in hopes of qualifying for state.
Salt River wrestler Lewis said this season he was ready to compete at the sectional meet and was looking forward to facing those wrestlers who have defeated him the past. Begay-Smith said he was not nervous prior to the start of the meet, but he certainly did not want to fall short of qualifying for state.
“I have been to state a couple of times and I really want to qualify again this year,” he said. “The wrestlers will be tough over there, but I think I have done what I need to do in order to prepare for the meet both physically and mentally.”
Lewis said he had a few nerves the day prior to the meet.
“I am nervous now, but when I get out on the mat I know that will go away and what I know will kick in,” he said.
Benally is wrestling for the first time this season, after following his brother into the wrestling room and giving his first sport a try.
“I have never played sports before this and I really like it,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I would like it and I have had a good time. My family, friends, coaches and teammates have been supportive of me. I know I can do it now and that makes me feel good.”
Although Benally admits it has been a tough season battling with more experienced wrestlers, he believes he learned a great deal. His first match in the heavyweight division put him up against a Camp Verde wrestler. For the first minute and one half, they two spent a great deal of time locking arms and waiting for the takedown. Unfortunately it came at Benally’s expense as his opponent earned points on a takedown, following by pinning him with 1:12 left on the clock in the first period. He finished the season 19-16.
Aaron Rivers competed in the 140 pound weight class against a wrestler from Joy Christian. He fell behind early with a 5-0 deficit heading into the second period and gave up five quick points. He battled back with 42 seconds remaining in the match and earned five points. At the end of the third period, Rivers lost to Joy Christian 14-6. He also competed against Bourgade, losing 10-0. He finished the season 18-24.
Freshman Eagle wrestler Blaine Hillis faced Newton Sander from Wickenburg in the 52 pound weight class. At the end of the first period he was trailing 5-0 and gave up seven points late in the second period. By the end of the third period Hillis was pinned with a little more than one minute left and trailing 14-0. Blaine lost to Yuma Catholic and finished the season 18-24.
Lewis defeated Edgar Hernandez in the 215-pound weight class after just spending 30 seconds on the mat. He finished 4-1 after beating Antelope, Valley Christian, Parker and Wickenburg and losing to Mogollon. He was 27-7 heading into state and will face Rance Allen of Round Valley in his first state match.
Taneasha Thomas faced Austin Martin from Bourgade in her first match. She lost in a major decision 16-0 and also to Camp Verde. She finished the season 19-34.
Begay-Smith could not overcome his opponent despite a late push to make a move and earn extra points. He trailed 4-1 with 16 seconds remaining in the first period and was able to earn one point in the second. At the start of the third period Begay-Smith trailed 6-1 and Marc was coaching him from the sidelines; ‘Go for the single leg.’ He beat Valley Christian and fell to Valley Lutheran and Camp Verde. Begay-Smith heads into state with a 38-20 overall record and will face defending state runner-up Justin Rockhill from Wilcox in the first round
Begay-Smith is set to represent Salt River in the state meet after placing sixth in the sectional and also was selected by the AIA over the sixth place sectional placers from the north and south. Lewis finished third at the sectional after pinning his opponent from Wickenburg. Thomas will compete in the girls state meet at the end of February in Camp Verde.