Corona’s wrestling team has started this season on top, winning every match including a first-place at the Southwest Showdown. Not only have they won every match but nine of their wrestlers have lost only two or less matches in their quest for another state championship.
“Freshman Bridger Barker (170 pound weight class), junior Ethan Tursini (160) and senior Josh Caliendo (220) are all undefeated at 12-0,” said coach Jim Martinez.
“Another freshman, Alex Carrillo (106) and junior Zach Walton (145) have 11-1 records, and then we have four other wrestlers, sophomores Matt Churchill (120) and Brix Kronborg (195) and juniors Glenn Farina (138) and junior Michael Clare (182) with 10-2 records.”
The Aztecs recently defended their Southwest Showdown Championship with an 8-0 record, defeating Marcos de Niza 56-15 in the quarterfinals, Skyline 42-30 in the semis and Chandler 40-33 in the finals to bring home another championship trophy.
“We beat defending Division 1 State Champion Chandler in the finals,” said Martinez. “Altogether we had five undefeated wrestlers, but the match was decided in the 285 pound weight class. Darius Ryan injured his knee in the first match so our 220 pound wrestler, Josh Caliendo, moved up a weight class and got a pin in 46 seconds.”
Carrillo and Tursini were selected to the All-Tournament Team, according the Martinez.
Last week Corona faced Chandler in a dual meet with Basha, once again coming away with a 39-26 win against the defending state champions. The Aztecs first had to wrestle in a competitive match against Basha that resulted in a close 35-28 victory.
The Aztecs were scheduled to wrestle at Brophy against Brophy and Mountain Ridge Dec. 13 and then take a break for finals. During the holidays they have two tournaments scheduled—first the Moon Valley Tournament Dec. 21-22 and then for a second consecutive year, The Clash, a national tournament, in Rochester, Minn., Dec. 28-29.
Corona basketball — The Aztec basketball team currently has the same record it had this time last year when it went 31-1 to win the Division I state championship. It’s too early to predict anything, but that championship team also lost its only game early in the season in the Fear the Hops Tournament during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Aztecs have won five games in a row after losing that one tournament game to Gilbert. That loss showed the players how important it is to play together as a team.
“We didn’t make a lot of adjustments,” said coach Sam Duane. “The guys just got a better understanding of their roles and about playing together better, but I think rebounding has been a huge key to our success.”
When Corona rebounds, it give the Aztecs, who are smaller but quicker than last year, a chance to get in rhythm, knock down three-point shots and play aggressively on defense as evidenced in their game last week against then No. 4 ranked Dobson. CdS defeated Dobson, 72-64, even though the Mustangs have three potential D-I recruits on their roster.
The Aztecs, though, have two players on their roster who not only do a good job leading the team but are keys to winning on both ends of the floor. Junior guard Casey Benson, a bit overshadowed by Caleen Robinson last season, has taken on a different role this season.
“Casey’s role, like everyone else coming back, has changed this season,” said Duane. “He now looks to score more and has become more of a leader on the floor for us. He is adjusting very well to being the target of defenses.”
If the Dobson game is any indication of Benson’s ability to light up the scoreboard, he is going to have even more of a target on his back the rest of the season. He drained baskets at will, racking up 28 points, several of them treys.
“My focus is to become more of a leader, helping my team keep our composure throughout games and staying together as a team,” said Benson. “In the Dobson game, I just wanted to keep taking good shots that were within our offense and to try not to force anything.”
If Benson is getting a lot of attention for his offense, senior Bryan Siefker is the defensive specialist of the team. He is especially effective when it comes to guarding the opponents’ best player and taking charges.
In the Dobson game, he literally took Colorado-bound Jaron Hopkins out of his game, causing him to be in foul trouble the entire time. Hopkins ended up fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
“He (Hopkins) is such a great player that you have to pick what to take away from him,” said Siefker. “We felt like we should take his drive away and make him a shooter.”
This is exactly what Siefker did. He took charge after charge when Hopkins tried to drive to the basket. Taking charges is nothing new for Siefker. He did it all last season and has continued to do so this season. How does he do it?
“Bryan, probably one of the most underrated players around, is intelligent, has great court awareness and knows where to be on the floor,” said Duane. “He’s a mentally tough kid who understands the value of a great defender. He takes pride in being one of the best defenders in the state.”
“He beats the offensive player to the spot every time and takes the hit right on the chest just about every time we are going the other way with the ball,” said Benson. “He never backs down from a challenge and always does a tremendous job every game on whoever he is guarding.”
Siefker also does a great job helping Benson lead the team; he’s an offensive threat for the Aztecs and a very humble player.
“I want to keep my teammates focused and just get the job done,” said Siefker. “When playing defense, I tell my teammates you can’t be afraid of contact. I’ve always been good at taking charges. A lot of it is how you sell the call.”
Benson and Siefker would be nothing without the rest of the team accepting their roles, including teammates Adam Gleave, who had 12 points, and Braden Tennyson and Cassius Peat, who added 10 apiece in the Dobson game.
Currently No. 3 ranked Corona was scheduled to play at Casa Grande Dec. 11 and then at home against Hamilton Dec. 14 before playing in the Mesa Holiday Shootout over the break.
Corona girls basketball — Corona’s girls basketball team took second place at the Desert Edge Tournament after losing to Millennium in the championship game 48-41, according to head coach Andrew Strom. Taylor Kalmer and Sammi Moore made the All-Tournament team.
In addition to Kalmer, who leads the team in scoring at close to 20 points per game hitting 50% of her three-point shots, and Moore, who hits over 42% of her three-point attempts and leads the team with 3.7 assists a game, Lauren Lucky is playing very well, according to Strom.
“Lauren had a great tournament for us,” said Strom. “She is averaging 14 rebounds a game after six games.”
So far CdS has had different girls contribute points every game, including Kaelin Shaffer who averages over 10 points a game. Haley Langille and Lucky have been racking up the blocks with four each while Vicky Sanford is averaging over two assists a game, second to Moore who averages close to four. The Lady Aztecs are working on dealing with pressure but are developing more chemistry and playing well together according to Strom.
The Lady Aztecs had a 4-3 record with three games to play before they take finals. Up first was Casa Grande, Dec. 11, then at Hamilton, Dec. 14 before a home match against Chandler Dec. 15. They are once again scheduled to play in the Prescott Tournament over the holiday break.
Marcos de Niza basketball — The Padres started the season hot, winning four games in a row and ending up ranked No. 5 in Division I, but then losing two in a row to ranked teams, Gilbert and Mesa, dropped the Padres out of the top 10.
Marcos started off by surprising Mesa Mountain View, 78-75, outscoring the Toros 23-15 in the final quarter to pull out the win. Senior Richaud Gittens scored 24 points and dished out 7 assists.
The Padres then went on to easily defeat Mountain Pointe 65-47. Senior Devin White stepped up against the Pride, scoring 22 points with 4 assists and 8 rebounds. White shot 75% from outside the arch, making three out of his four 3-point shots.
Marcos was on fire in their third straight win, defeating Mesa Westwood 70-36. The team played superior defense, shutting down the Warriors’ offense by only allowing them to score 1 point in the second quarter and 14 total points in the first half.
Tyler Lazenby led the team with four assists and Kelsey Trevino had three, while Nathan Goudeau and Luke Lamb each blocked a shot. Senior Stefan Tellis contributed 12 points in a game where most of the team saw playing time including senior Quinton Blue, juniors Connor Stark, Kelsey Trevino and Nick Ortega, sophomore Sean Wood and freshman Nkeal Harry.
The Padres won another tight game, their fourth straight win, 56-55, when they were finally able to knock down two free throws in the final seconds of the fourth quarter taking away any chance the Pride had to win their first game of the season. Mountain Pointe thought they had a come-from-behind home court victory in the making after the Padres, who led by as many as seven points in the fourth, failed to make free throws down the stretch and let Mountain Pointe back in the game.
The Padres had three players in double figures, White, Gittens and Anthony Varela with 16, 15 and 10 points respectively. Varela made both of his three-point attempts to shoot 100%. Marcos had 19 total rebounds, five by junior Dom Krane and two players, Rahqir Wilson and Gittens with three assists each.
Marcos had a tight game against No. 7 ranked Gilbert, the only team Corona has lost to all season. Unfortunately, they Padres had a slow start against the Tigers and were down at one time by as many as 12 points before the Padres cut the lead to only three heading into the half, 26-29.
The Padres outscored Gilbert by six points in the third quarter to lead 44-41, but could not sustain the effort, eventually losing by two points, 54-56.Gittens led Marcos with 17 points, followed by Krane with 11.
In the Padres’ second loss, No. 3 ranked Mesa High School had a good first quarter, outscoring the Padres 17-11. Although Marcos did pull within four points at one time, they never took the lead, ultimately losing 63-72.
The Padres were scheduled to play at Desert Vista Dec. 11 before taking a break for finals. They are then scheduled to play in the Horizon Tournament Dec. 20-22 and next at the McClintock Holiday Invitational Dec. 26-29. The next regular season game will be at home against Desert Ridge Jan. 8.
Corona boys soccer — The Aztecs were 2-2-1 after the first two weeks of the season, first losing to Desert Vista, then winning two in a row before losing to Perry in the second round and tying Gilbert in the quarterfinals of the Tempe Diablos Soccer Tournament Dec. 3-5.
Corona scored first against Desert Vista on a goal by Trevor Rusher but was tied 1-1 in a highly competitive rival match when a new rule passed by the National Federation of High School Associations took its toll on the final outcome.
The rule states that two yellow cards on a player equals a red card, which means the player must sit out the rest of the match and is suspended for the next match. The kicker is that the team must now play shorthanded the rest of the game.
Two Aztec players each received their second yellow cards in the second half, which meant that they not only had to sit out the rest of the game but left their team playing nine against 11 the last 10-15 minutes of the game.
The Thunder scored the go-ahead goal with about three minutes left in the game to defeat the Aztecs 2-1.
The Aztecs defeated Desert Ridge, 2-0, Nov. 30 on goals by Brendan Schnieder and Ryan Koenig, then went on to defeat Red Mountain in the first round of the Tempe Diablos Tournament Dec. 3. Leo Santos, Jeremy Ramsland and Cary Schwartzstein scored goals in the first half.
CdS did not advance to play in the semi-finals after tying 1-1 with Gilbert. The Aztecs were scheduled to play at Mesquite Dec. 12 and at home against Dobson Dec. 15 before competing in the AZ Soccer Showcase Dec. 27-29 and Dec. 31.