By Alex Zener
The Aztecs are poised to have a great season, bolstered by the return of 14 wrestlers, four who placed at state last year and three more who qualified for state last season, as well as the addition of five transfer wrestlers with loads of experience,
“We have a strong team returning this year led by senior state winners Hunter Carmona, 3rd place; and Nick Ruffalo, 5th place; junior Cam Upshur, 5th place; and sophomore Zack Kvavla, 6th place,” said Coach Jim Martinez. “We also return senior state qualifiers Diego Fill and Cole Bernstein and junior Jacob Santa Cruz.”
In addition to these wrestlers who helped Corona finished sixth at state last year, the Aztecs return three more with varsity wrestling experience.
“We have depth and experience from the top to the bottom of the lineup with juniors Armando Arellano and Ryan Chancellor as well as senior Michael Santa Cruz returning this season,” said Martinez. “Last year’s varsity experience has prepared them to step in and contribute to our already strong competitive team.”
The Aztecs are currently 18-0, including going 9-0 to win the Nate Johnson Invitational at Red Mountain High School Dec. 3.
“Zack Kvavle, competing in the-106-pound weight class, and Dylan Conner were both undefeated and selected to the All-Tournament team,” said Martinez.
The Aztecs most recently defeated Mountain Ridge, 58-13, and Chandler, 52-24, on Dec. 7 at a dual meet held at Corona.
Corona should be even stronger later this month when several Seton Catholic wrestlers, who transferred to Corona last spring when their program was cancelled, can compete for Corona.
“The addition of five wrestlers from Seton who transferred to Corona but had to sit out the beginning of the season due to the AIA transfer rules, should make our already strong team more competitive when the state tournament rolls around in Feb.,” said Martinez. “They include two-time state champion Brandon Konecny; state champion Vincent Dolce; fourth place finisher Jacob Garcia; fifth place finisher Bryce Nickel; and Mauricio Vega.”
Corona was scheduled to wrestle against Tucson and Basha in a dual meet Dec. 16 at Basha before competing at the Moon Valley Wrestling Invitational Dec. 16-17.
Several members of the team are scheduled to wrestle in The Clash in Rochester, Minn., Dec. 30-31.
The Aztecs will start 2017 competing in the Peoria Invitational Jan. 6-7 and then will have a dual meet against Mountain Pointe and Red Mountain on Jan. 11, just before wrestling some of the best teams in the state at the Flowing Wells Invitational Jan. 13-14.
Marcos’ Coach Moro to receive top honors
The National Football Foundation’s Valley chapter will pay tribute to this year’s 1A-6A State Championship Coaches, also recognizing several of Arizona’s top senior players with Legends Namesake Awards.
Paul Moro of Marcos de Niza High School, who has emerged as the alltime winningest high school coach, with 332 victories, will receive the organizaation’s Earl Putman Coach of the Year Award.
Tempe All City Awards
The Tempe All City Fall Sports Banquet was held Dec. 5 at the Phoenix Sheraton
In addition to Corona’s Girls Volleyball State Championship team being honored several athletes from Corona, Marcos de Niza, McClintock and Tempe high schools were given awards.
Corona Awardees included Emma Lower for girls golf, Lauren Forte, Brooke Nuneviller and Emma West for girls volleyball and Riya Kalra for Badminton. Cameron Brice, Jacob Clemens and Kaden Riforgiate were given awards for football while Jacob Stewart and Benjamin Quon were recognized for swimming.
Lower was instrumental in Corona’s fifth place finish at the 2016 Division I Girls State Championship when she took eighth place in the state tournament. Lower, who was the No. 1 player on Corona’s team the last two years, has signed a Letter of Intent to play golf at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
The 6-foot-4 Corona middle blocker Forte, a four-year varsity player, finished her senior season with 272 kills hitting 40% with 20 solo and 103 total blocks. She will be playing volleyball at California Berkeley this fall.
Nuneviller, in her junior year, is already a very skilled outside hitter who amassed 261 kills, 315 digs, 50 aces and 35 blocks in 99 sets while, West, another outstanding junior player as Corona’s opposite ended her junior season with 258 kills, 67 blocks and 43 digs.
Brice, the Aztecs leading rusher who ran for 981 yards or close to 100 yards a game, received an award for his offensive football skills.
Clemens was recognized for his defensive football prowess with 62 solo and 108 total tackles or almost 11 tackles per game plus two interceptions as was Riforgiate for his 51 solo and 88 total blocks plus four sacks and one interception.
Sophie Velitchkov and Jacob Hoo from McClintock were given awards for swimming. Hoo took second place in the DII one meter diving competition with a final score of 454.30 and Velitchkov was awarded for the 50 freestyle event.
Tyrese Green was recognized for his offensive skills as running back and Quintin Matthews for his defensive silks as defensive back from the Charger’s football team.
Marcos de Niza had three athletes receive awards for their play on the No. 6 ranked DII football team: Marcus Naisant, Nazareth Greer and, Anthony Gomez-Nicastro.
Naisant compiled 52 receptions for 971 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns for the Padres. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Greer, the starting quarterback for the past three years, completed 221 passes his senior season for a total of 3530 yards, an average of 294 yards per game, scoring 24 touchdowns.
Gomez-Nicastro was recognized for his linebacker defensive skill set. He played in all 12 games his senior season amassing 79 solo and 113 total tackles or over nine tackles a game.
My-King Johnson from Tempe High School was given an award for his defensive football skills his senior season. Johnson, who played in all 10 games for the Buffaloes was credited with an amazing 21.5 quarterback sacks, 51 solo and 89 total tackles.
As of Dec. 6, it was reported by gridironarizona.bravesites.com that Johnson had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Arizona, Oregon, Texas A&M, UCLA, UNLV and Utah State but has not yet committed.
Corona Girls Basketball
Corona basketball history will experience a “Re-Peat,” of sorts, this season with two Peat siblings playing on the same team at the same time. Instead of Andrus and Cassius on the boys basketball team, the girls basketball team has the sister duo of senior Leilani Peat and freshman Maya Peat lighting up the scoreboard for the Aztecs.
Leilani Peat, the leading scorer for the Aztecs last season at over 12 points a game, also averaged eight rebounds, almost three assists, more than two steals and close to two blocks a game. She is still leading the team in points scored this season but has increased her assist average to close to four a game.
Making her presence known on the court is 6-foot-3 freshman Maya Peat, who is averaging close to 10 points and six rebounds a game.
Corona started the season playing in the Marcos de Niza Tournament Nov.22-25, winning their first three games: Marcos de Niza 63-27; Cibola 58-33; and Coronado 73-28 before losing to Mesa and Mountain Pointe.
“Leilani Peat was named to the All-Tournament team after scoring 46 points with 30 rebounds, 22 assists and seven blocks over the five games,” said Coach Andrew Strom.
Including Leilani Peat, Strom has an experienced team, having returned seven players, four who either started or played significant minutes in all 29 games last season: Kiara El Amin, Hope Frazier, Angelica Lopez, Aarushi Sangwan, Nicole Whitaker and Ellyse Olson.
Since the Marcos tournament, the Aztecs have won four out of their last six games, including a 65-36 win over Mountain View and a 63-41 win over Boulder Creek.
“We played well against Mountain View,” said Strom. “Leilani had a double double with 14 points and 10 assists while Maya had 12 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore newcomer Justys Irish Holmes scored 11 point while Hope Frazier and Angelica Lopez had nine points each. “It was a tough loss to North 52-48 on Dec. 1 but I was proud of the way the team bounced back against Copper Canyon the following night to win by 14 points, 43-29.”
“Senior El Amin played a great game scoring a team-high 12 points against Copper Canyon,” said Strom.
“We have different girls stepping up every game,” said Strom. “Although Leilani had 17 points, Justys Irish Holmes scored 13, Hope Frazier 12 and Maya Peat 11 in our win over Boulder Creek Dec. 6.”
Freshman Taylor Davis has stepped it up on the court as well averaging close to six points a game with a high of 13 points in the Aztecs 55-46 loss to Mountain Point Nov. 29.
Junior Ashley Chau and sophomore Brennen Agnew have both seen time on the court and are expected to contribute to the team’s success off the bench as the season progresses.
Corona had two games scheduled before: Dec. 13 at Basha and Dec. 16 at home against Highland. The Aztecs first game in 2017 will be at home against Desert Ridge Jan. 6 followed by a game at Gilbert Jan. 10 and one at Mountain Pointe Jan. 13.