Marcos de Niza High School’s wrestling team capped the season with a strong finish, qualifying 11 wrestlers, six of whom won second-place ranking in the state tournament.
Sophomore Jessie Morales claimed a state title in the 130-pound division.
Marcos de Niza wrestling coach Jim Weed said he was proud of his wrestlers’ performances. He said Joey Gustos, Christian Moncha, Adam Pavlenkio, Richard Castro and Dominic Sotelo were all impressive.
Seniors Mancha (24-9) and Gustos (20-4) were key contributors, Weed said, adding that they competed hard the entire season and played a big role in Marcos’ finish this year. They provided the team with the points it needed to finish second, he said.
“Both of those kids, I’m really happy for them. Those seniors really helped us to get to the second place finish,” he said. “Those two seniors were big.”
Castro (27-7) and Pavlenko (24-5) were impressive along with Soteto, a four-time state placer.
Weed said the team’s goal was to win a state title. Marcos de Niza believed it had as good a chance as any to accomplish that goal. The team fell just short, but a second-place finish is still a great achievement, Weed said.
“Going in, we had a chance to win the whole thing,” Weed said. “Our hopes were to win (a title) But you’re never disappointed. The kids, they wrestled hard. We were hoping for (a championship), but the 11 that competed wrestled their hearts out.”
In recent years, the Marcos wrestling team has experienced immense success. Over the last 11 years, the team has claimed five state titles and five runner-up finishes. Weed said the key to the program’s success is preparation and hard work.
Just days after the state tournament, the team will begin preparation for next season. Wrestlers will begin working out this weekend.
“All of the young kids are excited,” Weed said.
The team will continue to work out over the winter and then move to freestyle practices in the spring and fall. During the freestyle practices, they generally compete in about 30-40 matches.
“It’s a good way to improve your wrestling skills,” Weed said.
Weed said he’s expecting big things from his returning wrestlers.
Morales should improve, but the road will be much more difficult next season. He’s a state champion now and will become a target.
“It’s always hard to repeat. Everybody knows you’re the state champion and they wrestle you a little harder,” he said.
Morales will move up to the 140-pound division, which will make his junior campaign even more of a challenge. Weed said he believes Morales is up for that challenge, however. Pavlenko has three top-four finishes in the state tournament. He finished fourth during his freshman season, third as a sophomore and second this season. Weed said he’s hoping his senior campaign can produce a state title.
The Marcos wrestling team had a very successful season, and Weed said he’s proud of what his team has accomplished. Their intensity is what stood out the most this season.
“The kids, all year, wrestled really hard,” he said.