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Tuesday 04/15/2014
DV has 11 more students athletes sign LOI

Wednesday's spring signing day for high school athletes means a boatload more of Desert Vista students moving on to the next level with the signing of their letters of intent.

There will be a ceremony Wednesday at 7:15 a.m. in the Dr. Joe McDonald Auditorium on campus.

Here is the list:

NICOLE HICKS-TRACK/CROSS COUNTRY TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY

MICHELLE ABUNAJA-TRACK/CC EASTERN WASHINGTON

ALEXA FOSTER-TRACK/CC UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII-MANOA

LORENZ DELANEY-SOCCER COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY-PUEBLO

NICK MANGIALARDI-SOCCER COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY-PUEBLO

TRICIA ANDREWS-SWIM CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY-IRVINE

BAILEE BLANKEMEIER-SWIM CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY- IRVINE

KYLIE WIEGL-SOFTBALL SOUTH MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SHEILA BARBEE-GOLF SCOTTSDALE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

RANDY ROSS-GOLF NEW MEXICO

JAHNAE MARTIN-BASKETBALL PIMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SYMAANI JOINER-LISTER-BASKETBALL CHANDLER-GILBERT COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:10 am. | Tags: Desert Vista Athletics , Letter Of Intent

Sunday 04/13/2014
DV boys hoops interview start this week

The Desert Vista boys basketball position was expected to be a highly sought-after position.

The list of potential candidates being floated about heading into Wednesday’s interviews would seem to confirm that along with continuing the DV administration’s track record of not being afraid to tap into a pool of coaches outside of the high school realm for a program leader.

Here are some of the names expected to make their way to DV offices on Wednesday:

Scott Lovely – He has coached at South Mountain as an assistant and Westwind Prep, but is most known for his time at Highland and Arcadia. In a 16 year career, Coach Lovely has compiled an overall record of 256 wins and 192 losses with a .571 career win percentage.

Brad Pinter – Resigned from the Basha boys job after the 2011-12 season in somewhat odd circumstances as the Bears were primed for a great season the following year with three Division I quality players (although they ended up transferring). Pinter went 95-49 in his five seasons at Basha. The team made the state semifinals in 2007-08. He is now at Arizona Power Basketball Academy.

Mike Ellsworth – Ellsworth resigned from the Chandler boys program after last season, his ninth with the Wolves. Ellsworth, who coached at Trevor Browne for 14 years before taking over Chandler, didn’t have a lot of success with Chandler with only two teams finishing above .500 for a career mark of 95-154.

Robb Floco – Took over two troubled programs – Desert Ridge and Casa Grande – and made them respectable with playoff appearances. He has been in the collegiate ranks for the most part since 2007 when he resigned after one year at Desert Ridge.

Tony Darden – The only candidate with a current high school coaching job, Darden has coached the Coronado boys basketball teams the last two years (15-36). He was an assistant with Tempe when the Buffaloes made the semifinals in 2010-11.

District candidate – There are a few that pop in mind, but don’t want to throw somebody out there to create a stir within the program although the one I am thinking of is a proven winner.

This could be a partial list or maybe it is completely wrong. Thunder athletic director T.J. Snyder has not returned several attempts to reach him so this is just what has been speculated by those in the know.

The answer will be known soon enough.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:02 pm. | Tags: Desert Vista Boys Basketball , Brad Pinter , Scott Lovely , Mike Ellsworth , Robb Floco , Tony Darden

Thursday 04/10/2014
ASU wrestling got the man it needed to regain stature

The Zeke Jones hiring is the one that HAD to be made for Arizona State wrestling.

He is a link to past success, he is one of the most respected as one coach in the United States and he has the perfect temperament for a program in need of a personality boost.

The program has been cut once and brought back by generous donations. The person running the program has to be able to command a room – and not just the practice room – to help sell the program.

Jones, 47, will be all of that and more.

I remember in 2008 how passionate he was after the program was retained. He was in town and training the U.S. National Freestyle team at ASU’s Riches Wrestling Complex for the national trials for the 2008 Olympics.

“If ASU's program was still cut and we were here on campus working to represent our country on their campus, it just wouldn't be right,” he said at the time.

"Now that the news came down that Arizona wrestling community stepped forward, we came in here with a clear conscience and ready to train."

And so can the Sun Devils now that Jones is back in town in a different role.

The program had bottomed out despite the 2011 top 10 run when a once-in-lifetime homegrown product – Anthony Robles – had a nearly unstoppable style helped by a birth defect and Bubba Jenkins caught fire his senior year after transferring to ASU and handed Penn State’s David Taylor one of his three career defeats in the finals for an out-of-nowhere title run.

Other than that surprising run the program, which has produced more than 105 All-Americans and eight national champions, has dipped to just another team on the West Coast when it should be the dominating program.

Jones and the ASU athletic administrators said all of the right things in announcing the hiring on Wednesday, but really the message was “We’re back.”

The Sun Devils new leader finished as a national runner-up and was a part of the 1988 squad that won the national title.

The seventh head coach in Arizona State program history, Jones is also an Olympic silver medalist for the United States, the 1991 World Champion at 52kg, a four-time World-Cup Champion, and coached United States’ Olympians in the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012 Olympic Games.

As Olympic head coach, Jones’ athletes earned two gold medals and one bronze at the London Games in 2012. His athletes in the 2004 Athens Games, where he was the freestyle coach, earned a gold and two silvers.

In the four World Championships during Jones’ tenure, USA placed third in the 2011 World Championships, fifth in 2013, and seventh in 2009. He also led USA to five individual World Champion medals, including two-time World champion Jordan Burroughs.

So, yeah, Jones was the hire ASU had to have and thankfully it got done.

“It was always my goal to come back to college wrestling,” Jones said. “Six years ago, Rich Bender (USA Wrestling Executive Director) and I talked about serving our country and getting our freestyle program back on track. I wanted to take on that challenge. I feel we are at a better place than we were.

“Now, I am ready for a new challenge, helping elevate Arizona State’s program into one of the best in the country and position its wrestlers for success on all levels of competition.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:21 pm. Updated: 12:30 pm. | Tags: Arizona State Wrestling , Zeke Jones

Wednesday 04/09/2014
Claye knows something special when he sees it

The pause was all that needed to be said.

Mountain Pointe Olympic medalist Will Claye was having a great time at the 74th annual Chandler Relays in the infield with his fellow honorees Bryce Lamb, Markus Wheaton and Dion Jordan.

When athletes of that caliber get together all kinds of foolishness can happen while they reminisce and ridicule each other.

And they were getting after it pretty good, but when Paul Lucas and a few others toed the starting line they became fans like everyone else.

Of course Claye was tuned into to Lucas, who he has known for years, and is on a similar career path as himself.

“He’s just special, just special,” Claye said.

Lucas has been getting plenty of attention after he won the 100 and 400 state titles, while finishing second in the 200 at last year’s state meet. It only multiplied when Lucas scored on the first play of scrimmage in the fall in setting the tone for the Pride’s state title run.

It will only increase this week if he tops the field at this weekend’s Arcadia Invitational in Los Angeles.

None of it has seemed to change Lucas’ approach or his modesty he has shown since helping Mountain Pointe set the state record in the 4x100 relay as a freshman.

“He’s got great people – his family, coach (Larry) Todd – around him that wouldn’t let (a big head) happen,” Claye said. “He’s setting himself up for a great career long past high school and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 4:10 pm. Updated: 10:07 am. | Tags: Paul Lucas , Mountain Pointe Track , Will Claye

Friday 04/04/2014
ASU wrestling program reeling, but more than salvageable

The end of the Shawn Charles era wasn’t a surprise to anyone.

In reality most people thought it was going to happen last year, but Charles bought himself some time after getting two national champions in Anthony Robles and Bubba Jenkins in 2011 when Arizona State had a top 10 finish in the national team standings.

There hasn’t been much success since then as wrestlers have quit, including this year’s only national qualifier Blake Stauffer for a short time, top recruits left the state for other programs and his relationship with area high school coaches continued to deteriorate.

When the program has already been axed once, is largely dependent on building relationships and fundraising, it wasn’t a good trend.

Something had to be done.

Charles, who took over for Thom Ortiz before the 2009 season, officially resigned, but we know how these things works. I am assuming he chose to go that route rather than being fired.

However it played out, it was needed.

Arizona State is in danger, if it hasn’t happened already, of becoming second fiddle to Grand Canyon. Antelopes coach R.C. LaHaye has done a tremendous job of running the program from the start and the Antelopes, who won the National Collegiate Wrestling Association team title this year, are transitioning to Division I.

Meanwhile, three projected starters (former national qualifiers Nathan Hoffer and Coltin Fought, and junior dual national champion Tyler Liberatore) for this past season quit and some of the in-state seniors wrestlers (Corona del Sol’s Ethan Tursini, Basha’s Trey Ronayne, Sunnyside’s Gabriel Gonzalez) were barely recruited.

“There was a real disconnect with who he brought in his room,” one wrestling parent said.

If the Arizona State program continued its downward trend it wouldn’t be long before Grand Canyon would be the top team in the state rather than the one that once had three-year run of finishing in the top two nationally, including winning the 1988 national title.

When the GCU program started seven year ago it was unfathomable to think it would ever be par with Arizona State, but that’s not far from reality now.

It’s testament to what LaHaye has accomplished, but also puts in perspective how far the Arizona State program has fallen.

If the right coach – uh, hello Zeke Jones – is brought in the Sun Devils will remain on top. There is some talent in the room and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those guys – Chandler’s Dalton Brady (Utah Valley) and Desert Vista’s Alex Bambic (Central Michigan) – who left the state decide to transfer back.

The program’s staunchest supporter – Sunkist Kids founder Art Martori – is confident Arizona State will start heading in the right direction again.

“Programs go in cycles,” Martori said. “If it didn’t Iowa or Oklahoma State would still being winning every year instead of Penn State. We haven’t had much success since 1988, but we had a pretty good go (in 2011). It doesn’t take a lot of athletes to get into the top 10 and if you get lucky with some kids it can happen.

“All sorts of things can happen that keep you from being successful.”

The hope is that changes with the hiring of the new coach.

I am hearing the top candidate is Jones, the former Sun Devil All-American who was a silver medalist at the 1992 Olympics in freestyle. He ran the Penn program starting in 2005 before taking of the U.S. National Freestyle team in 2008.

Jones has a great disposition, would be a great face of the program, and would be able to help rejuvenate excitement surrounding a program that so desperately needs it.

If he decides to stay with USA Wrestling then the other names that will likely surface are Sammy Henson, who is the assistant head coach at Missouri, and Casey Cunningham, a former Sunkist Kids wrestler who has been an assistant with Iowa State and Penn State under Cael Sanderson.

“They will probably go after one of the top coaches in the country,” Martori said. “Zeke Jones would be ideal. Whoever it is with new people there is change, but we are 100 percent behind ASU. We will help as much as we can.

“It all depends on how much the new coach wants to engage with Sunkist Kids. Hopefully, they will want to and things will continue to move forward.”

That first step was taken earlier this week.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Friday, April 4, 2014 3:50 pm. Updated: 9:03 pm. | Tags: Arizona State Wrestling , Shawn Charles , Grand Canyon Wrestling , Zeke Jones , Rc Lahaye

Thursday 04/03/2014
DV lax wins battled of undefeateds; Gambadoro scores 100th goal

The club lacrosse season is in full bore and there were two big moments this week.

In a matchup of undefeated squads the Desert Vista boys knocked off Brophy 8-7 on the road Tuesday to reiterate the belief that the Thunder are the best team in the state this season.

They improved to 7-0 and won a nail-biter against the Broncos after barely being challenged in the previous six matches. Overall, Desert Vista has outscored its opponents 113-14.

Anthony Abbadessa leads the way for the Thunder with 30 goals (on 71 shots) and 21 assists, while Stephen Votto has 22 goals and 13 assists and Raphael Vargas has 18 goals and 13 assists.

The other impressive feat of the week belonged to Gabby Gambadoro as the Desert Vista senior scored her 100th career goal in a 10-8 win over Hamilton.

She entered the year with 79 goals and piled up 19 more, including a career-high seven against Gilbert, to set up the historic night on Tuesday when she scored two goals against the Huskies.

On the season Gambadoro, who is headed Arizona in the fall, has 21 goals and 10 assists for the 3-3 Thunder.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwtukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, April 3, 2014 7:17 am. | Tags: Desert Vista Lacross , Anthony Abbadessa , Stephen Votto , Raphael Vargas , Gabby Gambadoro

Wednesday 04/02/2014
Rezac returns to form after mental block

It was odd but it was not the pants.

Jordan Rezac swears his uncharacteristic and disappointing showing in the discus at the 74th annual Chandler Rotary had nothing to do with his trademark Stars and Stripes pants he wears at most track meets.

“It can’t be the pants,” he said. “I’ve worn them since my freshman year. I hope it’s not. It can’t be the pants.”

Rezac was the third seeded athlete in the discus at the Chandler Rotary, but never got a chance to show his wares as he faulted on all three attempts.

“It was a mental block or something,” he said. “Everyone said I didn’t look like myself. The cage is real close and I just didn’t have it.”

It appears it was just a blip on the radar as the senior returned to form the following week when he won the Peoria Invitational with a throw of 161-feet and 7-inches on March 28 for the second best distance in the state this year.

“It was important to come back with a strong (effort),” he said. “I needed to get a throw out there.”

Rezac is back to 100 percent after two separate injuries essentially wiped out his senior year of football. As of now the plan is to head to Mesa Community College for track and football (not until sophomore year) unless his performance this spring bring more attention from college.

“That’s the plan right now,” he said.

A long with keeping his trademark pants.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 7:13 am. Updated: 9:16 am. | Tags: Desert Vista Track , Jordan Rezac

Tuesday 04/01/2014
Deutsch gets inside look at two legends

Stan Luketich and Tom Succow are two legendary Arizona baseball coaches.

Their coaching styles are similar – discipline, fundamentals, team first approach – and winning isn’t always as important as developing character within their players that prepares them for life.

It has led to Desert Vista and Brophy being two of the most respected programs in the state.

Thunder senior Isaiah Deutsch played his first two years under Succow and spent the last two with Desert Vista and Luketich.

He’s had firsthand experience of what is like to play for two of the most longstanding coaches in all of Arizona sports.

“They are good friends and they talk all of the time,” Deutsch said. “They are a lot of like, but different, too. Coach Luke runs a tight ship and practice is upbeat and intense.

“Both of them have 100 percent of your best interest at heart. I didn’t leave (Brophy) for baseball reasons. Both are great guys to play for.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 7:10 pm. Updated: 4:57 pm.

Thursday 03/27/2014
DV boys volleyball hang 10 in California

The Desert Vista boys volleyball team played well in California over spring break.

They finished They finished 2-3 and 8th overall out of 43 teams at the La Jolla Beach City Invite.

The team is going through a major transition after losing so many  starters from last season's state semifinalist squad.

This year's leading hitter - Sam Mathers - was last year's libero.

So placing at a high quality tournament will only do the Thunder some good.

But maybe not as much as what they did in the down time.

The group went surfing. I don't know the details yet. Not sure how many had experience or how many actually got up this time around.

All I know is that had to be an absolute blast. Something than can bring a team together. I guess only time will tell.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:48 pm. Updated: 11:24 pm. | Tags: Desert Vista Boys Volleyball , Sam Mathers

Community steps up for Kibby's bone marrow drive

It shouldn’t even been surprising at this point.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Someone in the Ahwatukee community needed help and the response was overwhelming. Surprise, surprise.

This time around it happened on Saturday at Desert Vista for the “Ryan Kibby Bone Marrow Drive.”

More than 150 people checked to see if they were a match for Kibby over the weekend.

Being tested is one way to help with the other being donations in order to bring down the costs of the $100 it costs to register someone willing to be tested.

For more information on how to help go to: http://www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/Kibby

In case you missed the initial story on Kibby, a freshman baseball player for the Thunder, here is some additional info:

Ryan was diagnosed with severe Aplastic anemia, a disease that between 600 and 900 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with each year, when he was 9 years old.

Aplastic anemia is a disease of the bone marrow caused by destruction of the blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow. Patients with severe Aplastic anemia are at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding because the bone marrow stops making enough red cells, white cells and platelets for the body.

Research suggests the stem cell destruction occurs because the body's immune system attacks its own cells by mistake.

Essentially, he has the bone marrow of a 90-year-old man.

Ryan’s positive response to immunosuppressive drug therapy allowed his body to produce enough blood cells and lead a normal lifestyle.

However, this was not a cure and in recent months his blood counts have been steadily declining. A second immunosuppressive therapy is not recommended in Ryan’s case and he will need to proceed with a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.

A bone marrow/stem cell transplant involves killing the bone marrow stem cells with chemotherapy and radiation which also kills the immune system. Blood-forming stem cells from a healthy donor are then introduced into the bloodstream.

A well-matched donor is important to the success of the transplant. Unfortunately, seven out of 10 of patients who need a transplant don't find a matching donor in their family.

And that was the case with Ryan’s family.

So the hope is that someone is can be the right match.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:23 pm. Updated: 11:19 pm. | Tags: Ryan Kibby

Zeke Jones talks about going to ASU and his time as National Coach

National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones talks about decision to accept Arizona State job, and his ...

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Zeke Jones talks about going to ASU and his time as National Coach

National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones talks about decision to accept Arizona State job, and his ...

[Sponsored] Welcome to Ahwatukee Skin & Laser

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Chandler Rotary boys 100M finals

Mountain Pointer's Paul Lucas wins race in 10.52 despite stumble out of blocks.

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