A wrestling room isn't defined by its four walls, the names of past champions listed on them or the near suffocating temperature.

It's the intensity.

When a group of wrestlers get together for drilling and live wrestling, the quality of work being done dictates the feel of the room.

Throw in most of the state's top talent going head-to-head, some collegiate wrestlers like four-time Arizona champions Kyle DeBerry and Luke Goettl and it's a career-changing type of intensity.

It was the scene this past week at Arizona State's Riches Wrestling Complex as the Arizona USA Cadet/Junior National team prepared for the national championship in Fargo, N.D.

"If you want to get better this is where you need to be," Mesa Mountain View coach Bob Callison said. "We have state champions from different schools working with each other and state placers who are trying to become state champions. There are JV kids trying to make varsity getting better by facing some of the state's best wrestlers.

"If you are not part of this you are probably taking a step back because these kids are getting better just by being in this room."

They've come together for the common goal of representing the state at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior/Cadet National Championships for freestyle and Greco Roman disciplines.

It gets started a week from today with the Greco tournaments and ends July 23 with the freestyle finals.

A total of 65 boys - and three girls - from around the state have qualified, including 34 from the East Valley, in one discipline or both.

They range from past double All-Americans like Desert Vista's Alex Bambic to accomplished first-timers like Highland state champion Curt Done to less established competitors like Mountain View's Logan Cole, who was a JV wrestler last season for the Toros.

"(Cole) might have trouble making our lineup again because we are loaded around his weight class (135 pounds) but he is showing how much he wants it by being here and competing against the best in the state," Callison said. "This experience is only going to make him better."

Another wrestler trying to make a similar step is Desert Vista's Jimi Dixie.

He won 27 matches on the season and qualified for the Division I state tournament at 189 but went 0-2 to walk away disappointed after his junior year.

"I realized if I wanted to get better, accomplish what I want to next year, that I had to put in more work," said Dixie, who also plays football. "I couldn't just show up next year and expect to be a state placer. I had to work harder than I have ever before."

Done is taking a similar approach, but has a much better skills set to work from. The Highland junior finished sixth in the state as a freshman and won the Division I title last year at 130 pounds and finished 34-2.

As a returning state champion, Done knows he is going to be targeted this school year by everyone he comes across.

He had never wrestled any style other than folkstyle (high school rules) before so it has been a bit of challenge as he got outside of his comfort zone.

"It was tough at first, but I like it," he said. "I don't know what to expect in Fargo, but I hear it is tough. Everyone comes from around the nation and sees who comes out on top."

Mesa Mountain View junior Seth Monty will be making his second appearance in Fargo after just missing placing last year in Greco, but didn't fare as well in freestyle.

After coming back without a medal in either discipline, it really tweaked Monty, who finished fourth as freshman at state, and changed his approach to the way he worked.

"I didn't want to let a day go by without getting better," he said. "I was going against kids from around the country and I didn't do as well as I wanted."

A few months later, Monty won the Division I 140-pound state title to show how much he improved in that little amount of time.

"He came back (from Fargo) with a different attitude," Callison said. "He really took the experience and turned it into a positive."

This summer Monty spent time competing against college level opponents in his birth state of Michigan to make sure there won't be any let up.

"Sometimes I hop on YouTube and watch all of the great wrestlers," he said. "That's who I want to become. Wrestling in Michigan definitely humbled me, but it made me look at things differently. I could see what I was weak at because that's where they were attacking me. I know what I need to work on to eliminate it."

It's the way a quality practice room works - work hard, take a pounding, learn from it and apply that experience to the next competition.

"When you look around the room and see who is here you know we are getting better as a whole," Callison said. "Hopefully we prove that in Fargo."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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