Aztecs pin season’s hopes on summer regional wins
By Alex Zener
Several Corona wrestlers recently represented Arizona’s team at the western regionals in Pocatello, ID, in June and then the national championships in Fargo, ND, July 12-15.
Arizona wrestlers who qualified for the regional and national teams wrestled in different age groups and categories including Cadet- and Junior-brackets in Greco-Roman, Folkstyle and Freestyle categories.
This year’s Cadet squad, born from 1999-2000, did exceptionally well taking sixth place in Greco-Roman at the prestigious national championships in Fargo.
Corona’s Bridger Barker, coached by Jim Martinez and Kyle DeBerry from Desert Edge, helped Arizona’s team take sixth place in the Greco-Roman category withonly 24 entrants to earn a combined 33 points. Arizona’s results were phenomenal when compared to teams such as Illinois who finished first scoring 86 points but had 68 entrants or California who finished fourth with 39 points but 36 entrants.
“Bridger became the first in Corona wrestling history to become a double All-American at the Fargo Cadet nationals,” said coach Martinez. “He not only placed fourth in Greco-Roman with a 5-2 recordbut then went on to record a 9-1 record and take second place in Freestyle.”
“Prior to nationals, Bridger competed in the Western Regional championships in Pocatello, ID, placingfirst in Folkstyle, second in Freestyle, and third in Greco-Roman,” said Martinez.
Several other Corona wrestlers and incoming freshmen competed this summer at regional and national tournaments including Ethan Tursini, Glenn Farina, Ryan Farina, Hunter Carmona, Diego Fill and Tanner Cain.
“Ethan continued his winning ways, earning All-American honors by placing sixth at the 2013 NHSCA National High School Wrestling Championships at Virginia Beach, VA,” said Martinez.
At the Western Regional Junior Duals in Idaho, incoming senior Glenn Farina posted a 6-0 record in Freestyle and knocked off some of the region’s best wrestlers where he represented Arizona along with hisyounger brother, Ryan, who will be a sophomore at Corona this fall.
“Both Glenn and Ryan posted 9-2 records in the Freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments at regionals,” said Martinez.
Ryan, who wrestled in the Cadet category this summer, learned some valuable lessons that should help him win matches during this upcoming high school season.
“The matches I lost this summer gave me the motivation to get better and it helped me understand what I need to work on,” said Ryan. “I learned from the training camps and my workout partners not only a lot of great techniques but also how to be disciplined, stay focused, and properly manage my weight.”
Barker, Tursini and Glenn Farinaalso participated in the 2020 Olympic Development camp in Ohio just prior to the national tournament. They were invited to join 100 of the best wrestlers in the United States for training, technique and opportunities to work with some of the country’s best clinicians and USA Wrestling’s Developmental coach and World Champion Bill Zadick.
“It was a great opportunity to go to the Olympic camp and be coached by US Olympic team coaches and to wrestle with the best kids in the country,” said Glen Farina. “This summer, though, played a really important role in my college recruitment efforts. Even though I did not do as well as I hoped at nationals, I have been getting calls from colleges such as the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania because of my exposure this summer. I look forward to visiting some of these schools before school starts.”
Barker, with lots of matches left before he starts looking at college recruitment, came away from his summer experience having learned some new techniques and motivated to continue to improve.
“The Olympic camp was amazing with so many competitive wrestlers and coaches in one place,” said Barker. “It made me realize how much work I still need to do but also motivated me to do well at nationals. My motion and offense has really improved, for instance, and I’m becoming more flexible and able to wrestle out of some positions I had trouble with in the past.”
Incoming freshmen Carmona and Fill represented Arizona in the Schoolboy duals in Indianapolis during June and also competed at the Western Regional Championships in Idaho.
“Hunter took fifth in Folkstyle wrestling at regionals and then the very next week competed at nationals in Orem, Utah, where he improved his results by finishing second,” said Martinez. “Diego placed fourth in Greco-Roman and fifth in Freestyle at the regionals.”
Also competing at the regionals for Arizona was Cain who finished sixth in Freestyle according to Martinez.
SeveralAztec wrestlers including Michael Nanez, Kyle Hausmann, Justin Sorenson, Anthony Farina, Raul Herrera, Marc Farina, Daniel Holland, Ryan Spadafore, Aaron Boehm, Paul Shaban, Jacob Featherman, and Cole Bernsteinattended the Chandler All-American Team camp wherethey learned techniques and got valuable competitive match experience.
Coach Martinez is banking on the effort and time invested by the team this summer to further develop their skills and gain competitive experience will help Corona’s team, finishing third at state last season, challenge for the state championship title in February.
Dane Kuiper: Verbal Commitment to Lobos — Although most Aztec fans have never watched him play on Corona’s basketball court, Corona has yet another top basketball recruit who will forever be associated with Corona’s program.
Junior Dane Kuiper, who moved to Arizona from Wasilla, Alaska, after his freshman year, verbally committed to play for the University of New Mexico Lobos July 14.
Kuiper, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, reputed to be one of the top 50 players in the basketball recruiting class of 2015, has a couple of years left in high school to leave his mark on the Aztec program.
Moving to Arizona little over a year ago after being born and raised in Alaska, brought a lot of changes to Kuiper’s life, and not just in the weather.
“My dad found work down here in Arizona,” said Kuiper, “and basketball opportunities just started to open up for me.”
“It is just so much more competitive here—better players, better competition. It has helped me become a better player.”
How did he end up at Corona?
“We chose Corona because it is a great academic school and I had heard great thing about Coach Duane and Corona’s basketball program,” said Kuiper.
Moving to Arizona also opened the door for Kuiper to be recruited by several schools including UCLA, San Diego State, Gonzaga, Miami, Virginia, Northern Arizona, Portland, San Francisco just to name a few. The Lobos new head coach, Craig Neal, may have been the deciding factor, though.
“I narrowed my top three choices to New Mexico, Arizona State University and Creighton,” said Kuiper. “I ended up choosing UNM because of the school’s academics, the basketball staff and the fan support.”
With two seasons left before he graduates from high school, what can Corona fans expect on the basketball court from Kuiper?
“Dane is a very talented and skilled player,” said coach Sam Duane Jr. “He can shoot the three and can score off the dribble as well. He is very athletic and, at 6-foot-6, he can make it hard to defend him because he can score in so many different ways.”
Interestingly enough, what Kuiper feels is his best skill or asset will tell you something about what type of player he is.
“I feel my best skill or asset on the basketball court is being very unselfish,” said Kuiper. “I also hope to be a scorer and someone who makes the right play to help my team win.”
Kuiper realizes he still has work to do before he heads off to play at the next level.
“In some ways I think I may be ready to play college ball because I can be explosive but then again I know my strength with the ball needs to improve.”
I get the feeling that coach Duane will not mind helping Kuiper work on his basketball skills the next two years as Corona hopes to defend its back-to-back state championships.
“Dane has a great work ethic. He is very coachable and is a good teammate. Add all of that to his passion to be a really good basketball player and there exists an extremely high ceiling as to how good he can really be.”
It should be an exciting season for Corona basketball fans.
Photo by Jim Martinez