The Desert Vista program has seen plenty of individual state titles walk out of the wrestling room in recent years.
Those who remain have never found the top of the podium, but have plenty of talent and the resumes to think the Thunder will continue adding names and pictures to its wall of champions.
Mountain Pointe, which hasn’t had a state champion since 2002, is in a bit of transition as well, albeit a little different, as the Pride has a split head coaching situation and there are no wrestlers returning with state experience.
The Pride has two coaches — Darrick Kahle and Anthony Leathers — going for their master’s degree so they will be co-head coaches and attempt to build on what Kahle began as his first year running the program a year ago.
Assistants Shaun Mros and James Kiernan will also have a hand with an influence on how the program will be run as well.
The talent lies with Austin Reyher, who broke his arm last year wrestling at 170 pounds, Jacob Mantanky (152/160), while Tyler Rojas (132) will anchor the lower weights with the hopes that one of them will develop into the team’s first state placer since 2010.
The upper weights will be a struggle to fill out at least until the football season ends, but overall the lineup will have a lot of new faces.
“We are going to have some youth in the lineup, but the desire is strong,” Leathers said. “We are going to have a new coaching direction from Mros and Kiernan. We expect to be competitive and we will focus on teamwork.”
The Thunder lineup is a little more settled as they expect to make a push for a top 10 finish at state for the fourth straight year.
It starts with two-time state placer Brian Mitchell, who finished fourth at 113 last season, while senior Tristan Ezell (195) had a terrific off season after finishing fifth last season. Junior Jeremiah Imonode (184) is a two-time qualifier hoping to stay injury free and finally find placement at state and Matt Mathers looks primed for a breakout year.
“Brian is working his way up the ladder,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “Jeremiah had a great summer and finished as an All-American (in folk style) and we will see how it translates to the state and Tristan is ready to take the next step.”
New addition Alex Carillo, a transfer from Corona del Sol, comes to the school where his brother, Ben, won a state title in 2008.
Carillo finished 39-14 at 106 and will be a good drill partner for Mitchell this season.
It adds up to a competitive practice room.
“It’s a good room right now,” Gonzalez said. “They are picking each other every day and making sure everyone is accountable. It makes it easier on me because they are hearing it from each other instead of just me.”
The Pride’s schedule is similar in years past with a trip to California for the North Torrance Invitational, Peoria Invitational (Jan. 10-11) and Flowing Wells Invitational (Jan. 17-18) with the mental and physical grind setting the tone for the postseason.
If the Thunder can get through it unscathed it will be able to make a push with the top teams in Division I like Mesa Mountain View, Sunnyside, Cibola and Basha.
“We have the pieces,” Gonzalez said. “There may not be any state champions returning, but we feel like by the end of the year that can change. Our schedule prepares us to be ready for that time of the year.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.