Things got back to normal for Tucson Sunnyside last season. And normal means winning championships.
Sunnyside had won 14 consecutive state titles before coming up short in 2011-12, Anthony Leon’s first season as head coach. But the drought didn’t last long, with Sunnyside reclaiming the top spot at last February’s state tournament.
Now Sunnyside enters 2013-14 intent on maintaining the normalcy.
“Nothing changes,” Leon said. “(The championship) reaffirmed what we’re doing and it re-centered the focus of the program … but when you’re talking Sunnyside, it’s do or die.”
With three returning state champions — Gabriel Gonzales and brothers Juaqin and William Olivas — Sunnyside’s chances in Division I look good. It likely won’t be a runaway, though, as usual suspects Tempe Corona del Sol, Chandler and Mesa Mountain View all field strong teams capable of taking the title.
Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge’s move up to Division I makes the Division II race wide open, as Ironwood Ridge had claimed the past three Division II state championships.
However, another team wrestling in a new division could take over. Yuma Cibola finished fifth last season in Division I and will be the early favorite this year in Division II.
Yuma Gila Ridge, with last year’s 106-pound champ Nathan Mendivil and two other state placers returning, will also be in the running.
In Division III, Phoenix Thunderbird has won three titles in a row, the past two coming after losing a significant portion of its roster. This year is no different, as Thunderbird’s only state champion and four of six placers are gone.
Rio Rico and a handful of others could make a run, but don’t doubt Thunderbird’s chances of making it four in a row, as it’s proven it can reload in a hurry.
Division IV looks to be a two-horse race between the last two state champions, Camp Verde and St. Johns. Camp Verde is the favorite to defend its title, with Matt Mejia, Alex Casillas and two-time champ Ryan Allred returning after winning individual titles last season.
St. Johns brings back two champions of its own in Eli Frazier and Garrett Davis, and with Camp Verde should make this an entertaining season.
“Look for it to be a dogfight,” Camp Verde coach Bob Weir said.
Defending champions: Tucson Sunnyside (Division I), Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge (Division II; now competing in Division I); Phoenix Thunderbird (Division III); Camp Verde (Division IV).
Favorites: Sunnyside, Tempe Corona del Sol, Chandler (Division I); Yuma Cibola, Yuma Gila Ridge, Vail Cienega (Division II); Thunderbird, Rio Rico, Chino Valley (Division III); Camp Verde, St. Johns, Snowflake (Division IV).
Returning individual champions: Division I: Jacob Reyes, Sr., Surprise Valley Vista (106 pounds); Juaqin Olivas, Jr., Sunnyside (113); William Olivas, Sr., Sunnyside (126); Glenn Farina, Sr., Corona del Sol (132); Michael Suwyn, Sr., Glendale Mountain Ridge (145); Ethan Tursini, Sr., Corona del Sol (160); Trey Ronayne, Sr., Chandler Basha (170); Gabriel Gonzales, Sr., Sunnyside (195); Division II: Nathan Mendivil, Sr., Gila Ridge (106); Jacob Swift, So., Glendale Deer Valley (126); Troy Vandall, Sr., Phoenix Barry Goldwater (132); Kyle Jividen, Sr., Tucson Sahuaro (heavyweight); Division III: Josh Kramer, Jr., Buckeye Verrado (106); Ted Rico, Jr., San Tan Valley Combs (113); Gabe Galaviz, Sr., Flagstaff Coconino (120); Jesus Berrera, Sr., Tucson Amphitheater (152); Division IV: Matt Mejia, So., Camp Verde (106); Alex Casillas, So., Camp Verde (113); Ross Ens, Jr., Benson (120); Eli Frazier, Sr., St. Johns (126); Ryan Allred, Jr., Camp Verde (132); Garrett Davis, Sr., St. Johns (182); Santiago Robledo, Jr., Morenci (heavyweight).