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Corona del Sol grabs early attention in Arizona Division I wrestlingDec 10, 2012 The early season gauntlet has been laid down in Division I Arizona wrestling.
Corona del Sol (Tempe) has twice defeated defending champion Chandler in dual meets.
Of course a dual meet is much different than a team tournament, which is how the state title will be determined Feb. 7-8 in Prescott Valley, but nevertheless the Aztecs were impressive in winning the Southwest Shootout last weekend with an 8-0 record.
Corona defeated Chandler in the finals with a score of 40-33 and then came back on Thursday and got a 39-26 win.
"They're a very strong team every year," Chandler coach Vidal Mejia said. "They'll be there in the end, no question. We are a top-eight team and if everything comes together at the end like last year we can make another run."
Mejia and co-head coach Curtis Owen let the Chandler wrestlers know long ago that this year will be different than 2011-12 when it won one of the closest big-school races in state history.
"We called them in the Monday after and told them to take a week to enjoy but come that next Monday. That team was put into the books," Mejia said. "We lost some good wrestlers from that team but we can get back to that level."
The offseason was a positive one for Arizona with several wrestlers doing well at the national level. It led to some anticipation for the start of this season and one thing is for sure.
Each of Arizona's last few seasons has had some common themes, including Corona being one of the Division I favorites. The beginning of 2012-13 season was no different.
The season began in earnest last week with changes to the state tournament yet again, transfers finding new homes and the area's elite talent continuing to find more and more opportunities.
Let's take on the state tournament process first.
Each of the four divisions now have four sectional meets (up from three) with the top four advancing to state (instead of five plus one overall at-large) to spread out the wealth of talent a little more.
The seeding for state goes like this: The sectional champs will earn the top four seeds. The section runners-up will be placed on the opposite side of the brackets than their respective sectional champs. The other eight qualifiers will be placed in the bracket by blind draw.
It's good in some regard, but still not completely what coaches want in regards to the field of sectional (some are stacked – especially Division I, Sections III and IV – while others are weak) and the state seeding (most prefer 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3) still could cause some tougher than need be first round matchups.
"It's a step forward, but not a big step," Desert Vista (Phoenix) coach David Gonzalez said. "We get a little closer each year. It is much better than it used to be so we will get through it and see what happens."
Next year changes are anticipated because the appeal process will put a lot more teams in Division II and lesser numbers in Division I, so it might be hard getting enough teams in D-I for four sectionals.
"We will revisit and see how it all works outs," Arizona Interscholastic Association tournament director Dean Visser said.
One thing that also keeps getting better is the number of elite wrestlers earning Division I college scholarships.
This year Chandler's Dalton Brady (Utah Valley), Mountain View (Mesa) wrestler Seth Monty (Arizona State) along with two wrestlers with Arizona ties – Robbie Mathers (Utah Valley/Desert Vista/Olympic Training Center) and Garret Ryan (Columbia/Horizon/Wyoming Seminary, Pa.) – found a home.
Desert Vista's Alex Bambic, who will probably end up at West Pointe Prep School, and Mesa's Ben Andrew, possibly ASU, will end up somewhere at the end of the year as well.
The interesting one was Brady, who has lost once in Arizona and he goes for his fourth state title, after he decommitted from Arizona State to attend Utah Valley.
"I had to find a place that it is going to get me to the next level," said Brady, who cited the presence of Utah Valley associate coach Erkin Tadzhimetov (9-time national champion and similar weight to Brady). "They have the coaching staff that can work with me. It was a tough decision, but I found the right spot for me."
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is an 18-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at email@example.com or 480-272-2449.