The state wrestling tournament for Class 5A schools has been laughed at, tweaked and prodded seemingly every year since 2005 when the Arizona Interscholastic Association introduced split divisions for the two highest classifications.

As the 2010 season gets under way all of the bellyaching and silliness has been replaced with satisfaction.

Instead of six classifications - and an unfathomable six individual titles per weight class - there are now four divisions. Within each division there are three sections. The top five in an end-of-the-season tournament advance to the state tournament, with one total at-large bid, to fill out the 16-man bracket.

"It's a huge positive step," Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. "It's what we as coaches have been pushing for and now it is in place."

It's not perfect - four state titles is still way too many for 188 total wrestling schools compared to other states - but everyone has to qualify to make the state tournament and that hasn't always been the case.

"It's a real state championship again," Mountain Pointe coach Shannon Radford. "This is what this sport is about."

Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, which used to be in Class 5A Division I, remain in the biggest class, which is now called Division I, and were placed in Sectional I.

It is comprised of 16 total teams and is filled with teams from Phoenix, West Valley and Yuma, including formidable teams like Phoenix Maryvale, Glendale Sandra Day O'Connor and Yuma Cibola.

Desert Vista, which opened the season Tuesday against Highland, figures to be one of the deeper teams in its sectional and with its difficult schedule will be ready to face the state's best once February rolls around.

The Thunder's practice room is paced by three individuals in junior state champion Robbie Mathers, at 112, senior Ace Martinez, who finished third at 160, and sophomore Alex Bambic, who finished fifth at 215.

Mathers will bump up to 119 or 125; Martinez could be at 152 or 160; and Bambic will stay at 215. It gives the team leaders in lower, middle and upper weight classes.

"They make us go, set the pace," Gonzalez said. "We have a good amount of experience at all of the weight classes. We have a tough schedule and we face everyone in our sectional, I think, other than Sandra Day O'Connor so we will know where we stand."

Also coming back are state qualifiers Jesse Ortega (112), Tyler Struck (112, 119), Cooper Gardner (130) and Sam Schoepf (171), along with Mike Arredondo (HVY), Dylan Kearney(140, 145) and Zhenya Sweeney (140, 145), all of whom have varsity experience.

Others who could crack the lineup are Matt Mathers (103), Danny Mitchell (145, 52), Kendall Love (135), a transfer from Indiana, and Jake Woelbel (119, 125).

"When you are going up against Sunnyside, Mesa, Corona del Sol and the other top teams it is going to come down to depth," Gonzalez said. "We are looking forward to being in the hunt, and we will see how we progress throughout the year."

Mountain Pointe's lineup is less predictable after losing seven seniors to graduation. The sophomore class, Cody Rojas and Trey Stevenson, who qualified for state at 103 and 112, respectively last season, will litter the lineup. The Pride, which opens the season hosting Mesa and Mesa Westwood tonight, also has a large freshmen class with 28 making the jump from middle school.

"We are going to be young and we are going to find out who wants to compete," Radford said. "We'll bring the freshman along slowly, but we are expecting a lot out of some of those sophomores."

There are some juniors who will crack the lineup as well and the senior class will be led by Tor Campitelli (140) and Kevin Sparks (189).

"We are going to be young, but I think we have the right attitude," said Campitelli, who didn't qualify for state at 145 last season. "We are going to push each other to get better every day."

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