Drilling to the core - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Drilling to the core

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:40 am | Updated: 1:46 pm, Fri Jan 28, 2011.

It's one of wrestling's little secrets that play out at tournaments all season long.

When the parade of champions is before the finals, there will often be clusters of like uniforms grouped together.

There will be several back-to-back weight classes represented by the same school. It's no coincidence and chances are those wrestlers are drilling partners. They work together while practicing technique and push each other while wrestling live.

They rarely leave each other's side unless they are being separated by coaches.

"If you don't have competition in the room then you don't have a very good room," Mountain Pointe coach Shannon Radford said. "That is where it all starts."

The Pride have a couple of sophomore lightweights - Cody Rojas and Trey Stevenson - that are starting to realize how important the other is when it comes to reaching their individual goals.

It started last season when Rojas missed the Class 5A Division I state tournament by one match at 103 pounds and Stevenson qualified at 112, but didn't place.

"They worked well together as freshmen," Radford said. "But now they understand what it takes to really work and push each other to the next level."

Although Stevenson, now at 119, started the year with an ankle injury, the tandem have ramped up their drilling pace this season and it is starting to pay dividends.

Rojas, who is at 112, placed fifth at McClintock, won the Mountain Pointe dual tournament to be named MVP and finished fifth at the Aztec Duals.

He won 16 of his first 22 matches heading into the Salpointe Catholic tournament over the weekend.

"I know that Trey is going to make me better," Rojas said. "That's what I want. If I didn't I would (drill) with someone I know I could beat. You get better at practice and that's why we push each other."

Rojas is strong with his pinning combinations while getting better on his feet, but had to adjust to the size and strength differences between 103 and 112. Radford said where Rojas has made the most strides is being open to coaching.

"He has become much more coachable," Radford said. "If I tell him to cut (his opponent for an escape) and go after takedowns, he is doing it and he has won a couple of matches that way.

"He is starting to mature and it shows with his mat awareness."

Rojas was driven by last year's final match. All he needed was to get his hand raised one last time and he would have been able to gain the experience of wrestling at Wells Fargo Arena at last year's state tournament.

He didn't let it ruin his approach to the offseason as Rojas placed high enough in the state freestyle tournament to qualify for regionals in Idaho, but the booster club's funds were tapped and he didn't make the trip.

"That just showed me even more that I could compete at a high level," Rojas said. "It pushed me to work even harder."

Stevenson started the season late and entered last weekend with a 9-5 record, but has wrestled better of late, including a third-pace finish at the Aztec Duals.

He has no doubt that his partnership with Rojas is one of the reasons why.

"He wants to beat me and I want to beat him," Stevenson said. "The competition I have against him usually is better than I get in my matches. If I can get a takedown or back points against him, I know I am ready to face anyone else."

Making state is the immediate goal for both wrestlers as the Division I sectionals - Feb. 4 and 5 - nears, but Radford sees a broader picture.

"These two have a chance to really do something special over the next three seasons, assuming they stay around the same size," the coach said. "As long as they continue to spar at the same pace and intensity they are showing now, they are going to really to develop into something great."

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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