Prescott Valley • The demons have been quieted.
Desert Vista senior Tristan Ezell ultimately ends his career as a Division I state runner-up instead of a champion as he expected, but the growth he has shown will someday resonate more than the disappointment he felt Saturday at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Until then Ezell, who has openly talked about the “demons in my head” holding him back, will feel the sting of the 2-1 loss to Centennial’s Lewis Arendall for the 220-pound state title.
Ezell turned the corner confidence-wise and how his loss is a perfect example.
He entered the third period trailing 2-1 and it was his choice. The practical decision was to take bottom and try to escape in order to tie it.
Ezell, however, was so confident in his newfound offensive attack, that he chose to go neutral with the thought of getting the winning take down.
It didn’t come to fruition but the confidence in the decision said plenty.
“I’ve come far, but I ended up losing,” said Ezell, who finished fifth. “I guess there is accomplishment in making the state finals, but I wanted it all.”
Thunder coach David Gonzalez said the transformation by Ezell, who finished the year 36-7, in recent weeks will remain the telling story.
“He’s always had the ability to reach this level, but he was his own worst enemy,” he said. “Tristan really opened up starting at Flowing Wells (in January) and we’ve seen a different wrestler, a different kid ever since.”
Ezell, who pinned the top seed in the semifinals with a perfect lateral drop, has no regrets in the way he wrestled against Arendall, who won two of the three previous meetings.
“I tried my best, wrestled a good match, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
Overall the Thunder had a solid weekend.
Six wrestlers qualified and three placed including junior Jeremiah Imonode, who failed to find the podium his first two years at the state tournament.
The Desert Vista junior was hampered by sprained right ankle, but managed to finish sixth at 182 pounds.
“I feel like I’ve taken a big step this year and next year I am going for it all,” he said. “Getting a medal is cool, but next year I am coming for the gold.”
Imonode, who wrestled his freshman year at Horizon, lost 10-2 to Red Mountain’s Bryan Zobeck in the placement round.
“It’s not that I am happy that I placed,” he said. “I know I have the talent to be a state placer. I guess it is just one more stage in becoming a champion. I know physically I can be a champion so it is more about growing into a champion mentally and staying healthy.
“Everything that comes with the being a champion I have. I just have to put it to use.”
Sophomore Alex Carrillo believes he is on the same path after making the semifinals and eventually finishing third at 113 pounds after he was pinned in the semifinals by Mountain View’s Paden Mason.
It’s not always easy to come back strong after losing in the semifinals, but Carrillo managed to win his next two matches when he beat Ironwood Ridge’s Patrick Klass 1-0 for third.
“I did better than last year (when he finished fourth for Corona del Sol at 106),” he said. “I got jittery in the semifinals. I didn’t wrestle without nerves like I have been.”
Desert Vista brings back five state qualifiers, three of whom have placed in their careers.
“We have some good young wrestlers,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “We will be OK. The wrestling room opens Thursday.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Thursday @JSkodaAFN.