Salt River High School hosted a wrestling match on December 19, inviting teams from Baboquivari, San Tan Foothills, Hayden and Tohono O’odham high schools. Salt River’s junior high wrestlers also had a chance to compete.
The Eagles had their chance to prove themselves in front of their classmates and fans on the mat. Senior Jesus Salazar wrestled at 132 lbs. Du ring his matches with opponents from Baboquivari, Tohono O’odham and San Tan Foothills, he posted an undefeated record for the night, pinning them all in the first period. He finished with a 4-0 score.
“He can get crazy on the mat sometimes,” said Varsity Wrestling Coach Na Humma. “Salazar is sharpening up as we get past the first of the year and make that final push to the tournament.”
Jay Wilson wrestled at 138 lbs. He is listening to his coaching and improving a lot, according to Humma. He took two forfeits that day and then the coaches bumped him up to the 145 lb. weight class, so he was able to wrestle with other wrestlers who outweighed him by 7 pounds.
Wilson had a very good match against Baboquivari and was able to drag it out all the way through. The wrestlers went over five minutes, and in the third period he got caught on his back. Throughout the match Wilson was constantly moving and using techniques that he was trained to do. “Even wrestling in an upper weight class he was looking very good,” said Humma.
Alondra Chase, who wrestled at 220 lbs., accepted a forfeit against Baboquivari and was pinned by both her opponents from Hayden and San Tan Foothills.
Chase’s most exciting match was against Roderick Manuel of Tohono O’odham High School. Using her techniques to catch him off guard, Chase eventually brought him to the mat. Humma said Chase’s training took over and she immediately put him to his back to secure a pin at 1:05, during the first period, for her second pin of the season. She continues to battle against male opponents and is still working hard in the wrestling room as she prepares for the girls state championship tournament in Camp Verde.
The junior high wrestlers were able to have matches during the resting time for the high school students. “We had a chance to showcase their skills and got them an opportunity to wrestle with the varsity team,” said Junior High Wrestling Coach Simon Smith.
This was the first home meet for the Eagles wrestlers, but both the junior high and high school have been to several tournaments throughout the season.
“It was a good experience that the junior high got to wrestle another O’odham school (Santa Rosa Day school),” said Smith. “We won as many as we lost, and everyone is improving individually. Some highlights from the evening were junior high students Emiliano Acosta, who won two matches and lost one, and Lakota Scabby, who won one match and lost one.”
Acosta had four matches; two of them were back-to-back, and in his final match he lasted through all three periods but in the end lost by points to a wrestler from Santa Rosa with five years of experience.
Shelia Ramirez went out for two matches and was defeated. This was her second match for the season, and the coaches said she is coming along just fine this year.
“We have them doing high-level workouts. For the junior high it may be difficult for them, but they do it and receive a lot of praise and encouragement,” said Smith.
According to Smith, the younger wrestlers are placing and getting medals in their tournaments. Heavyweight Jason James has won two gold medals this season. One of his matches went into double overtime.
“For the wresting, the junior high is the biggest program and they are our lifeblood as far as the future of the program,” said Humma. “Everyone is enjoying the [junior high] program so far, and the high school is looking good.”
“The wrestlers are bringing life to wrestling, enjoying and loving the sport, and it shows that this is something that they really want to work to get good at,” said Assistant Wrestling Coach Jaimen Bennalley. Bennalley comes to Salt River from the Peoria High School class of 2012. He is the 2012 Arizona Division II state champion in the 220-lb. weight class.
“Their drive and motivation to go to the practices, and overall just wanting to be there, really shows in their work,” said Bennalley. “We also teach them that wrestling is also a part of their rich cultural history, tying tradition into wrestling by sharing stories or using tribal language with them.”
The Eagles wrestling team will have another meet on Saturday, January 5 at Tempe High School from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information on schedules, contact Salt River High School at (480) 362-2000.