|Photo by Kris Cartwright
Kyrene Middle School’s wrestling team sent its opponents to the mats with six first-place finishes, defeating Aprende, Altadena, Akimel A-al, Centennial and Pueblo middle schools to win the conference championship Jan. 17 at Mountain Pointe High School.
Coach Patrick Hoddy and his five coaches had 44 determined boys on the team this year from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The Scorpions competed in 17 weight classes in the conference championship, winning six first-place finishes, two second-place, five third-place, two fourth, one fifth and one sixth-place finishes.
Taking home first-place medals were Trysten Griffith in the 75-pound weight class, Coleman Griffith at 85 pounds, Rodriguez Begay at 95 pounds, Glen Farina at 100 pounds, Graham Schmoker at 115 pounds, and Jesus Morales at 127 pounds.
Trysten Griffith, an 11-year-old sixth grader, has been wrestling for seven years. Trysten has nothing but good memories about his first middle school season because he has more pins at 12 than anyone else on the team. He also has an 11-0 record. (That’s right, he hasn’t lost a match all season.)
“Getting into shape and running all the time is the most challenging part about wrestling,” said Trysten. “I have played a lot of sports but nothing is as hard as wrestling because it’s not only physical but mental.”
Trysten’s brother, 14-year-old Coleman Griffith, is also 11-0 this season and has 11 pins to his credit. One of his highlights of wrestling, according to Coleman, was being coached by Henry Cedullo, a Gold-Medal winner in wrestling at the 2008 Olympics in China. Coleman, who will be headed to Marcos de Niza next year, hopes to play football as well as make the wrestling team.
“I love football, and I have found that wrestling has really helped me in my football game,” said Coleman. “Wrestling helps me with my balance, which is really important in both sports.”
Although 13-year-old Glen Farina was 9-1 in the regular season, he came away with a first place medal in the 100-pound class after pinning three opponents. His only loss this season was a bit of a fluke.
“The only match I lost this season was to a kid I had on his back,” said Farina. “He flipped me and ended up winning the match. It made me mad because I knew I was better than him.”
Finishing in second place were Justin Riethmann in the 155-pound class and Bryan Giron at 180 pounds. Both wrestlers had a 7-3 record in the regular season but made it to the finals in their respective weight categories, winning second-place medals.
Riethmann, a 13-year-old eighth grader, has been wrestling for only three years and loves the sport.
“I initially tried out for wrestling for the workout,” said Riethmann. “Now I love wrestling despite all the hard work on conditioning and the roughness of the sport.”
Third-place finishers include Riley Reyburn in the 80-pound weight class; Jay Moore at 90 pounds; Zachary Roybal at 108 pounds; Billy Clemens at 120 pounds; and Vinny Vital at 200 pounds.
Roybal, a 14-year-old eighth grader, only tried wrestling because his friend recommended it.
“My friend Rod Begay asked me to go out for wrestling with him because it would be fun,” said Roybal. “It is fun but I have also gained confidence and strength from wrestling. I’m even learning how to fight through the anxiety you get before a match.”
Billy Clemens started wrestling six years ago after attending a Corona wrestling camp. Clemens has been wrestling opponents above his weight in the 120-pound class all year but enjoys the uniqueness of the one-on-one competition that wrestling offers.
“I play football and baseball but wrestling is unique,” said the 14 year-old Clemens. “It’s only about you and the other guy on the mat. Whose the strongest and the quickest. Working harder than the other guy. No other sport is like it.”
Fourth place went to Jason Lachober at 137 pounds and Mike Clare in the 146-pound category. Lachober has the second most pins on the team, along with Begay, Farina and Morales at eight. Rounding out the Kyrene wrestlers were fifth-place finisher Cody Putensen at 70 pounds and Manny Martinez was sixth at 165 pounds.
What’s made this season’s KMS wrestlers so successful?
“I attribute our success this year to our depth as a team and our coaches,” said Coach Hoddy. “Our coaches have a great rapport with each other and they all know how to bring out the best in all the wrestlers.”
“Coach Kyle Leslie, coach Justin Clare, coach Matt Lawson and coach JT Mendoza are unbelievable in their personal character, knowledge of the sport and interaction with the kids,” said Hoddy.
“I’ve had a great time coaching with them and I can’t imagine coaching with anyone else.”
Additionally, coach Hoddy acknowledges that parental backing throughout the season is a factor that motivates the coaches.
“I think our parental support throughout the season has motivated us as coaches,” said Hoddy. “Parents always are close by to help in any way. We’re lucky to have them and we’ve made some good friendships along the way too.”
The team will be next competing for the state championship in the 2009 Arizona Junior High School Wrestling State Championships in Tucson Jan. 30-31.
“The competition at the tournament will be challenging because all the schools have excellent wrestlers and coaches,” said coach Hoddy. “I think we have as good a chance as anybody to win because our kids have gone above and beyond what we asked of them. They’re a special group of wrestlers and we’re proud of them regardless of what happens.”
This season has been a special one for Kyrene Middle School wrestlers, parents and coaches but as most coaches agree, athletes grow and move on but it’s the memories that last.
“I think what I’ll remember most about this season is when one of our wrestlers came from eight points behind and pinned his opponent with seven seconds left in the match,” said Coach Hoddy.
“To most it was just another match, but for this particular wrestler it was two years of hard work and disappointment in exchange for three minutes of glory. Most kids would have hung up their shoes a long time ago. Now that’s a wrestler.”