Dylan Kearney drew first blood so to speak and has been weakened ever since.

And his fellow seniors on the Desert Vista wrestling team are not averse to letting him know about it.

When you have been in the same wrestling room - a place where nothing is sacred other than keeping it as warm as possible - together for seven years, starting at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, nothing is out of bounds.

"They let me hear about it," Kearney said. "I was the only one of us to win (freshman) state so I probably had the most expectations, but in the back of the mind I know they probably have all passed me. That's great for them, not really for me."

Kearney has one more chance to change it. If he can wrestle better than ever over the next two weeks, he might get one step up on his fellow seniors - Tyler Struck (119), Ace Martinez (160) and Sam Schoepf (171).

Desert Vista is hosting the Division I, Section I state qualifying tournament today and tomorrow. There will be 16 teams, including Mountain Pointe, in the tournament with the top five in each weight class advancing to next week's state tournament in Prescott Valley.

Kearney is the team's starting 140-pounder and has a 15-11 record. He fully admits that he hasn't lived up to his expectations and takes the ribbing in stride. After making it to the second day of state as a sophomore (when everyone qualified), Kearney didn't make it out of sectionals last season, partially because he had a high-ankle sprain.

Now as his final chance to place at a state meet approaches, Kearney is dealing with another undisclosed injury.

"That's typical," Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. "He came in as the most polished of the four and never lived up to it because of injuries. If there is one kid you want to really pull for it is him."

The antithesis of Kearney is Martinez.

He came into the high school wrestling room doing just about anything other than take wrestling seriously.

Now, he is the most accomplished after finishing third in Class 5A Division I state tournament last season and brings a 28-6 record into the 160-pound sectional.

"He was a squirrelly kid that didn't seem serious about getting better," Gonzalez said. "Now when I need something to be said to the team, he is who I go to."

Martinez, who is hoping to wrestle in college, knows the transformation took awhile but is glad it did and that it pays off with a state title.

"I was the guy who ran around annoying everyone," Martinez said. "At some point, I started thinking about what I wanted to get out of this sport and I wanted to be the best I could. That wasn't going to happen with me messing around. I had to get serious."

The results have been a 61-17 record over the last two seasons that has been highlighted this year by a tournament title at the North Torrance (Calif.) Tournament of Champions and runners-up finishes at Peoria and Flowing Wells invitationals.

"I step on the mat expecting to win every time," Martinez said. "There are going to be some tough matches the next couple of weeks, but everything I have done since I started wrestling in the sixth grade has prepared me for it."

The breakout wrestler among the group is Schoepf, who has become a state title contender at a wide-open weight class at 171.

He had a middling record of 18-17 at 152 pounds last season. He might have had a better chance of placing at state but seeding - or lack thereof - led to Schoepf having to wrestle the No. 1 seed in the first round.

It made for a rough tournament route, but showed him how much work had to be done before he entered his final season.

"I had faith that the time I put in was going to pay off," said Schoepf, who won his first career tournament this year. "The coaches here make sure you are ready to go. I lost close matches last year that I am winning now."

Schoepf is 26-6 on the season and steps on the mat each time out as the chased instead of being fodder for a higher seed.

"He is the perfect example of persistence and patience," Gonzalez said. "Sam had it click this year. Everything has gone his way and now he has two weeks to make sure he finishes strong."

That leaves Struck, who has fared well in big tournaments to go 20-12. He made state last season and won a match, but fell short of placing. He doesn't plan on that happening again.

"I was the only one of us who didn't place at freshman state," he said. "They make me remember it. I put in a lot of work over the last couple of summers and I think if I can place at state it makes up for being the only one who didn't place as freshmen."

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