Once again the inequality among the four Division I wrestling sectionals will leave many wrestlers battle tested and beat up.
And some very good wrestlers left out all together.
The wrestling sectionals are divided geographically and in DI it has left all of the perennial powers in two of the four sectionals. The top four in each of the 14 weight classes from the four sectionals make up the 16-man brackets at next week’s state tournament at Tim’s Toyota Center.
“I can look at it and see the inequality,” Glendale Mountain Ridge coach Corey Whitten said. “It’s pretty clear that it is unfair, but that’s what we have right now. I don’t have a problem if they change it up. We will go wrestle anywhere.”
Mountain Ridge competes in DI, Section III and have some very good wrestlers, but don’t have the depth seen at most of the schools that are all competing in DI, Section I and IV.
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe are in Section I and will travel to Tucson Ironwood Ridge on Saturday for the sectional tournament. The wrestlers who return to Ahwatukee as state qualifiers will have earned it.
“It is a tough road,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “The older kids know what is in front of them. The younger wrestlers just have to worry about the guy in front of you. Just qualify (for state) and worry about next week because it is going to be easier to some degree if they get the seeding falls right.”
The 11-team sectional now includes Sunnyside, Ironwood Ridge, Tucson, Buena and Marana to go along with Chandler, Basha and Perry and Hamilton.
The other two sections — Section II and III — lost its strongest program when Cibola moved down to Division II, while Sunnyside has won 15 of the last 16 state titles (30 overall) regardless of the division it has competed in. Ironwood Ridge had won three straight Division II titles after finishing as runner-up the previous two years before bumping to DI this season and Tucson has developed a toughness and technique coach Bobby DeBerry was known for while winning 15 state titles at Sunnyside.
“The way I look at it is the guy who comes through the fire is going to be the guy to beat,” Sunnyside coach Anthony Leon said. “It’s time to stop whining about it. It reminds me of the NCAAs back in the day when the Big 10 was the top conference and dominated everything. Go out and earn your spot by wrestling your best.”
The difference is high school tournaments don’t have wild cards to reward the more difficult weight classes or in this case, sectionals.
Just the top four advance regardless — after a weighted sectional process (five qualifiers from two and three qualifiers from the other two) was voted down in the offseason — and there is a clear disparity.
Sections II and III only have 10 teams per section, and while there are some very good individuals, there are no programs considered perennial powers. A lot of teams won’t bring a full lineup to fill out the brackets to make the path to state even easier.
Of those 20 teams three have finished in the top three a total of four times in the history of Arizona wrestling as Mountain Ridge was third in 2000, Chaparral finished third in 1993 and Maryvale finished third in 1977 and 2004.
Sections I and IV have 11 teams per section and provided 20 of the 28 state finalists last season in DI and almost all will have full lineup. Overall, those programs have combined for 44 state team titles and 36 state runner-up finishes.
“We haven’t even talked to our kids about how tough the sectional is,” Ironwood coach Tim Berrier said. “As a coach you just play the cards you are dealt. The smart kids will figure out that it’s tough on their own.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.