PHOENIX - It might have been dark, but it was pretty clear the light was on for Sam Schoepf.
The Desert Vista senior 171-pounder helped the Thunder to a second-place finish at the Moon Valley Invitational on Saturday when he won his first high school tournament and placed for just the second time.
The finals of the 30-team tournament feature just one championship mat with the gym lights off and a spotlight placed on the wrestlers who came through the pool round and semifinals to earn a shot at the title.
"We always talk about when the light switch will come on," Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. "This could be Sam's as long as he keeps improving. He has really worked hard and this could be the spot where we look back and say that's when the light came on for him."
Schoepf might have been the least distinguished of the 28 finalists.
During each match the announcer reads a bio about the individuals. State champions and placers were riddled throughout the roll call.
Then there was Schoepf.
One line - third place at Class 5A Division I sectional - was all it took to sum up his career up to the point before facing Lakeside Blue Ridge's Zane Gouker, who finished fourth at state in Class 3A last season.
"We were joking during the break, what the heck were we going to write?" Schoepf said. "Gonzo said we should have made something up."
No need anymore. Not after beating Gouker 8-4 on the strength of a four-point move in the early portion of the match off an underhook.
He can list Moon Valley champion for the rest of the year. Not bad for a kid who was 18-17 last season. Schoepf is now 12-1 on the season as the team takes some time off before heading to California after Christmas.
Schoepf took a long look at that piece of paper he was given on the podium. It had a picture of him getting his hand raised superimposed over the bracket from his weight class.
"I knew I had to work in the offseason to get to this point," Schoepf said. "I gassed a lot last year and wasn't a strong as I needed to be to be good. Everything I did has started to pay off now and this might be the start of something."
Schoepf was one of three Desert Vista finalists and nine overall placers as the Thunder finished with 527 points behind Corona del Sol (585). Mesa (467), Moon Valley (448) and Anthem Boulder Creek (432) finished out the top five.
DV's Robbie Mathers cruised to the 125-pound title with a 10-0 technician-like win over Peoria Sunrise Mountain's Cord Coranado to be named the lower weight Outstanding Wrestler of the touranment. It was his second straight Moon Valley title after pinning Boulder Creek's Tim Ellison last season after trailing 5-0 to Ellison.
"He told he wanted to make sure no one could say it was a fluke this time," Gonzalez said of Mathers' dominant performance against Coranado, a state runner-up last season.
One of the more anticipated matches of the finals involved the Thunder's sophomore 215-pounder Alex Bambic and Corona's Simon Allen.
The combatants split a pair of matches at state last season with Bambic winning in the first-round and Allen winning in the consolation semifinals.
Allen, a senior, came away the winner this time for his second straight Moon Valley title with a 7-3 win. Bambic had several deep shot attempts but Allen was able to get out of it several times and secured all three of the takedowns in the match.
"It was frustrating," said Bambic, who fell to 12-1 on the year. "I set it up and got off good attempts but didn't finish it."
Gonzalez said the match is just the first of many clashes expected this season.
"This is one of three," he said. "We will see him at Flowing Wells and state. It would have been nice to make a statement tonight but we want to win the last one."
The other placers for the Thunder were Matt Mathers (103, fifth), Tyler Struck (119, fifth), Cooper Gardner (130, third), Kendall Love (135, third), Ace Martinez (160, fifth) and Jimi Dixie (189, sixth).
"It's a work in progress," Gonzalez said. "We had some illness that held back some of point scorers, but we had a good tournament."
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Moon Valley Invitational
Team standings (top 10 only)
1. Corona del Sol 585, 2. Desert Vista 527, 3. Mesa 467, 4. Moon Valley 448, 5. Boulder Creek 432, 6. Pueblo 417, 7. Horizon 416, 8. Camp Verde 367, 9. Blue Ridge 337, 10. Show Low 319
103 –Micah Trejo (MV) pin Alvaro Gallego (Pueblo), 1:57. Third - Galaviz (Coco) pin Owens (Snow). Fifth - Mathers (DV) pin Segundo (Buck), 2:35. Seventh - Casillas (CV) pin Manley (Sunny), :48.
112 – Willie Maxson (Horizon) dec. Doug Cortez (Apollo), 7-2. Third - Ryan (SL) tech. fall Sanchez (Sunny), 16-0. Fifth - Porter (MV) dec. Hale (Mesa), 7-6. Seventh - Estillore (Pueblo) dec. Simon (Green), 7-6.
119 – Angel Felix (Pueblo) dec. Kevin Hunt (Sunrise Mtn), 10-3. Third - Jimenez (Sunny) pin Walton (CdS), 2:31. Fifth - Struck (DV) tech fall Uribe (QC), 16-0. Seventh - Vandall (MV) dec. Reyes (VV), 6-1.
125 – Robbie Mathers (DV) maj. dec. Cord Coranado (Sunrise Mtn), 10-0. Third - Rosales (Mesa) dec. Crosby (Dys), 7-0. Fifth - Clothier (Peoria) dec. Haley (Coco), 8-5. Seventh - Warshaw (Hor) dec. Byers (VV), 4-0.
130 – Preston Andrews (BC) by default over Heath Carroll (CV). Third - Gardner (DV) dec. Pearce (SL), 15-7. Fifth - Phillips (Cortez) maj. dec. Butler (CdS), 19-10. Seventh - Rivas (Apollo) dec. Delhanty (Pueblo), 7-2.
135 – Roman Bux (CV) dec. Tabias Banayat (MV), 6-4. Third - Love (DV) maj. dec. Mattson (BC), 14-4. Fifth - Warshaw (Hor) dec. Onley (BR), 9-2. Seventh - Diaz (Snow) dec. Contreras (Dys), 7-3.
140 – Mark Bayer (NC) pin Brandon Cordova (Peoria), 5:11. Third - Lindsay (Flag) dec. Kulesa (MV), 4-3. Fifth - Tursini (Cds) pin Anzar (CV), 2:21. Seventh - Okamura (VV) dec. Syth (BR), 3-1.
145 – Mikey Contreras (BC) dec. Bryant Wood (Horizon), 9-7 OT. Third - Lock (QC) dec. Pyper (Mesa), 11-4. Fifth - Landrum (CdS) maj. dec. O'Connor (Flag), 17-7. Seventh - Iribe (CC) by default over West (Sunny).
152 – Ryan Cox (CdS) dec. Alex Selvy (Dysart), 8-5. Third - Verdi (Mesa) dec. Almader (Pueblo), 7-2 . Fifth - Moreno (QC) dec. Pratt (BC), 6-2. Seventh - Lilly (BR) pin Katzenberger (Apollo), 1:20.
160 – John Gast (MV) dec. Diorian Coleman (Mesa), 4-3 4 OT. Third - Ryan (Hor) maj. dec. Stevens (Sunny), 9-0 . Fifth - Martinez (DV) tech fall Waddell (CdS), 16-1. Seventh - Davis (CV) by default over Hatch (Snow).
171 – Sam Schoepf (DV) dec. Zan Gouker (BR), 8-4. Third - DeLeon (CdS) maj. dec. Nevitt (NC), 16-4. Fifth - Perkins (Snow) dec. Poh (Hor), 5-3. Seventh - Cuellar (Mesa) maj. dec. Wellman (Pinn), 9-0.
189 – Carlos De la Vara (Pueblo) dec. Jay Tucker (CdS), 11-5. Third - Eddy (BC) pin Washburn (NC), 2:35. Fifth - Gaun (Flag) maj. dec. Dixie (DV), 9-0. Seventh - Westbrook (Cent) dec. Badger (BR), 7-6.
215 – Simon Allen (CdS) dec. Alex Bambic (DV), 7-3. Third - King (Buck) by default over Ladesma (Cactus) . Fifth - Bennalley (Peoria) dec. Tamez (MV), 6-2. Seventh - Najera (Cortez) dec. Merrill (SL), 9-5.
HVY – Rickey Higuera (Buckeye) dec. Alejandro Luna (Mesa), 6-4 OT. Third - Dubas (Pinn) dec. Napoleon (Apollo), 2-1. Fifth - Pachecp (Snow) dec. Leasu (Dysart), 15-12. Seventh - Cabezas (MV) pin Blaney (Green), 1:44.