Kendall Love is the perfect example.

He stepped into the Desert Vista wrestling program with enough quickness and skills to be a dominant athlete on the mat. He brought some technical wrestling skills with him from Indiana, but not enough to find himself at the top of the podium in February.

And, yet, he found himself there after winning the Division I 135-pound title. He deserves all the credit in the world for going out and winning the most important tournament of his life.

But even Love knows he doesn't get there without being part of the Desert Vista program. Love wouldn't go as far as to say Robbie Mathers should be credited with 2 1/2 individual state championships instead of two, but the daily clashes sure helped.

"I won because of what the coaches did for me, and drilling with (Mathers) every day," Love said. "It's a great room that helped me get to where I needed to be. I didn't get there until the end, but that's what matters most. The competition every day made me ready.

"And it is only better this year."

Ah, this year.

Much has been made about this season's roster because of a couple of transfers who have brought some extra firepower to a lineup that already sports three state champions, a state placer, and three other state qualifiers.

"Why wouldn't a kid or his parents want to be in that room," said an opposing coach. "If I had a son I'd definitely send him to Gonzo (coach David Gonzalez) and (assistant) John Matthews. They are great guys, and they run a great program."

If the Thunder can get the entire lineup put together, something it hasn't done yet this season, they head into this weekend's Moon Valley Invitational with a chance to come back with a lot of hardware.

The insertion of Robert Sobarzo and Derek Allen has brought some heated scrutiny from the outside, but inside the room the competition is the only thing running hot.

Sobarzo, who officially never placed for Westview at state after being disqualified during his placement match last year, knocked Allen, who finished fourth at Mountain Ridge as a sophomore, out of the state tournament in the consolation quarterfinals at 135 pounds, with a 10-9 win. Sobarzo beat Love 3-2 in the sectional championship match.

Now they are all in the same room with Mathers, the school's first two-time state champion, and Cooper Gardner, a state qualifier.

"You are challenged the whole time," said Allen, who accepted an appointment to West Point. "The coaches push you, and no matter who you drill with you are being pushed."

It gives the Thunder a pretty difficult lineup, from 126 to 152, to try and match up with in dual meets and tournaments.

If it all falls into place it should go: Love (126), Mathers (132), Sobarzo (138), Gardner (145) and Allen (152).

The biggest benefactor might be Gardner, who is wrestling at pretty much his natural body weight, and competing at a higher level than in previous years.

"I'm a lot stronger because I'm not losing weight, and losing my energy halfway through my match," he said. "(Allen) is really good and pushes me to get better as I try to keep up with him."

The back end of the lineup isn't too shabby either with state qualifier Jimi Dixie, bruising sophomore Tristan Ezell, state champion Alex Bambic, and state placer Mike Arredondo (once he gets into wrestling shape) going from 170 to 220.

The other pieces to the lineup - Brian Mitchell (103), Matt Mathers (possibly 113 when he is ready to wrestle), Nico Campbell (120), Danny Mitchell (160) and Adam Ortega (HVY) - are solid as well, but just not as accomplished.

"There is a different vibe this year," Gonzalez said. "With or without those guys it would have been that way. We came up short last year (finishing third) and they all want the big trophy. We will see if it works out.

"We always like to have good people in the room, and that's great, but we have to get out on the mat and prove the work paid off with something."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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