PRESCOTT VALLEY — Steve Linsacum saw the reporter approaching and knew what was coming.
“Don’t jinx us now,” the Phoenix Thunderbird wrestling coach said.
With his team owning a healthy lead after the Division III preliminaries Friday at Tim’s Toyota Center, a jinx might be the only thing that could stop Thunderbird from taking home a third consecutive state title.
It recorded 63.5 points, topping Gilbert Campo Verde (48) and Flagstaff Coconino (46.5). Thunderbird qualified a wrestler in each of the 14 weight classes and has five semifinalists that will compete in Saturday’s medal rounds.
“We got five in the front door (semifinals), and we got a lot of help coming in the back (consolation rounds),” Linsacum said. “It’s going to come down to a game of numbers — who can keep the most alive, front door and back door.”
Wrestlers to keep an eye on Saturday in Division III: defending champs Ryan Vandall of Phoenix Moon Valley and Marky Lopez of Rio Rico, both seniors. Vandall won at 126 pounds last season but moved up to 132 this year, while Lopez will look to defend his 145-pound title.
Also, one exciting potential finals matchup, should both wrestlers win their semifinal matches: San Tan Valley Combs sophomore Ted Rico vs. Thunderbird senior Ryan Felipe at 113 pounds. Rico is 41-1 and won an individual championship at the McClintock Invitational, while Felipe is 36-6 and was the state runner-up last year at 113.
In the Division IV meet, Camp Verde built a considerable lead in the preliminary rounds, banking 107 points on Day 1. Defending champion St.Johns is in second place with 74.5 points and Holbrook is in third with 63 points.
Camp Verde took the team title in 2011, but had to settle for second place last year losing to St.John. Camp Verde coach Bob Weir said the loss has made his team hungry this season. Ten of the team’s wrestlers advanced to the semifinals.
“It was a great day,” Weir said. “They came in here and did what we asked them to do and that was to be aggressive.”
He expects more of the same Saturday.
“They’ll be coming in strong and coming in fighting,” he said.
St.Johns has six wrestlers in the semifinal round, including defending champion Brock Crosby, who will look to take home another title at 160 pound s. Jake Lee of Queen Creek San Tan Foothills will also be looking to defend a 220-pound title .
Scottsdale Salt River’s Alondra Chase also competed in the 220-pound weight class Friday and is believed to be the only female wrestler in Arizona history to make it to a state championship tournament in a weight class higher than 140 pounds. She lost both matches by pin.