PRESCOTT VALLEY – The Groves twins insist there is no competition between them. Gator and Marco Groves have plenty in common, though.
Both Tempe McClintock juniors completed unbeaten seasons Saturday at the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II wrestling state championships at the Prescott Valley Events Center. And both had to go the distance in their final match before each walked off with a third state title, Gator at 145 pounds and Marco at 160.
Another three-time winner was Tucson Sunnyside junior Roman Bravo-Young, who doesn’t know the meaning of defeat since he has yet to lose as a varsity wrestler. Bravo-Young won the Division I 132-pound title.
Tempe Corona del Sol captured its first Division I title in seven years, scoring 226.5 points to 203 for runner-up Sunnyside. Benefiting from several Chandler Seton Catholic transfers and a solid core of returnees, Corona was led by individual champions Cameron Upshur (120), Jacob Garcia (138), Vincent Dolce (152) and Brandon Konecny (160).
Marana Mountain View won its first Division II state title. After leading Queen Creek by one-half point entering the final session, Mountain View was boosted by individual champions Jayce Cunha (120) and Marcus Castillo (132).
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The Groveses have successfully navigated weight gains during their three seasons with Marco Groves (55-0) making the biggest leap from 132 to 160. His pins increased, he said, but he ran into a bigger wrestler in Marana’s Blake Proper in the final.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to score any points,” said Marco Groves, who won 12-6. “I was able to gain some momentum and probably should have pinned him the second period. But I was happy to get the win.”
Marco Groves, who lost four times as a freshman and was unbeaten as a 132-pounder a year ago when he constantly found himself cutting weight, made it two straight unbeaten seasons.
Meanwhile, Gator Groves (56-0) completed his first unbeaten season. However, with three career varsity losses, he has one fewer than his brother. He was pushed by Daniel Morris of Glendale Ironwood in the final before emerging with a 4-2 decision.
“I had three fairly easy matches before (the final),” Gator Groves said. “He was much tougher. I just had to make certain not to let him get takedowns. I am happy I was able to win, and I am happy that Marco was successful, as well. We are each other’s biggest fans.”
Bravo-Young completed his third straight unblemished season over Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s Peter Rossi, 18-6. It was the second match Bravo-Young had to “settle” for a major decision by outmatched wrestlers who seemed determined to keep off their backs.
“That’s OK, I’m used to it,” said Bravo-Young (47-0), who said he will wrestle for powerhouse Penn State after high school. “I just have to take what (opponents) give me.”
The biggest wrestler was Division I’s biggest winner as he completed a 27-0 season that included 27 pins. But 285-pounder Kolo Uasike of Mesa Skyline was in the battle of his life in his final match. Surprise Valley Vista’s Justin Moore rolled Uasike on his back in the second period, and it took all the resolve the first-time champion could muster to survive that and post a pin in 4:33.
“This was for my older brothers (Kilisimasi and Piliote) who tried to get here before me,” said Uasike, Skyline’s first individual champ. “Honestly, I felt I could have been more successful if I had been able to cut weight.”
One of Arizona’s top defensive linemen, Uasike said he had to trim down from 320 to make weight and struggled earlier in the season. But he was too strong for any opponents throughout the season.
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If Josh Herrera had been paid by the minute, he would have been the poorest of the state champions. The Goodyear Desert Edge 113-pounder not only pinned all four Division II opponents, including finalist Xavier Rico of Queen Creek, but all of his falls occurred in the first period. In all, he spent 2 minutes, 55 seconds on the mat.
“This was my first and last (state championship), and I wanted to make a statement,” Herrera (30-1) said. “You could say I was hungry. I was thinking pin with all my opponents.”
Herrera’s teammate, senior Brandon Courtney, said he wasn’t thinking pin. He merely wanted to complete his second unbeaten season and claim his third state title. He did that at 126 pounds when he decked Andrew Cota of Mountain View in 14 seconds.
“There wasn’t any competition between us,” said the Arizona State-bound Courtney. “If there was, he would have won with how quick his pins were. I was happy to finish unbeaten after losing once last year (he was unbeaten as a sophomore). It was a great way to finish.”
Other Division I winners were: Sunnyside’s Jesse Ibarra, 106; Manny Garcia, 113; and David Salazar, 145; Stone Crooks, 126, Anthem Boulder Creek; Michael Escobido, 170, Tucson; Brock Doolen, 182, Mesa Mountain View; Chad Porter, 195, Phoenix Desert Vista; and Tommy Mommer, 220, Yuma Cibola.
In Division II: Carlos Vargas, 106, Glendale Deer Valley; Denen Fernandez, 138, Queen Creek; James Deitz, 152, Peoria Liberty; Trayvin Cato, 170, Paradise Valley; Anthony Saba, 182, Queen Creek; Miles Nuessle, 195, Liberty; Skylar Cavanaugh, 220, Vail Cienega; and Dakota Halverson, 282, Maricopa.