|Photo by Kris Cartwright
The Corona del Sol Aztec wrestling team is out to do it right this season. The Aztecs finished last season as the 5A Division I state runner-ups, losing to Mesa High after being ranked No. 1 most of the season. They started this preseason once again at the top of the rankings.
“Being ranked No. 1 in the preseason is not always the best situation,” said senior Kasey Turner, who wrestles in the 130-pound weight class.
“It’s easy to fall into thinking you are already at the top, but we still have a lot work to do and need to continue practicing harder than ever.”
The team is also keeping the slogan it’s had for several years: “Cui Bono,” Latin for who benefits or gains.
“Cui Bono means that we believe that everyone’s actions should reflect on the success of the team as a whole,” said senior two-time state champion Luke Macciaroli.
“When it comes down to wrestling, everyone has an impact. The first-year lettermen are just as important as the returning state champs. Everyone contributes to a championship team.”
Coach Dave Vibber has several returning letterman and medalists from last season to contribute to a potential championship team, including sophomore Ryan Cox at 112 pounds, junior Justin Cullins at 119, senior Kevin Etchells at 125, senior Turner at 130, senior David Hoover at 140, junior Ryan Miller at 145, junior Blake Ortiz at 152, junior Sam Fulton at 171 and senior Sean Larsen at 189.
“In addition, several key individuals are undefeated as we enter the most challenging part of our season,” said Coach Vibber, “including junior Brad Spadafore (135 pounds), junior Derek Felton (160 pounds), senior Macchiaroli (215 pounds) and junior Mike Howard (285 pounds).”
The team had been struggling to place a wrestler in the lowest weight class but recently settled on freshman Robert Butler at the 103-pound class.
The Aztecs had their first big challenge Dec. 10 when they faced No. 2 Highland and No. 3 Mesa, last year’s state champion. Corona beat Highland 57-18 and Mesa 35-27.
“Beating Highland and Mesa, the returning dual state champs, was a big win for our team,” said two-time state runner-up Felton.
“We came to wrestle, and we’re very happy with the way it turned out for us that match.”
Last weekend, Corona participated in the Westwood Warrior Classic, taking second place after defeating seven of eight teams.
The Aztecs beat Desert Mountain 48-18; Gilbert 44-12; Basha 48-13; North Canyon 62-9; Mountain View 47-13; Mesa 54-10; and Ironwood Ridge 42-21 before losing to Cibola 30-36.
The Aztecs, now 14-1, are set to compete Dec. 19-20 at the McClintock Invitational before the season picks up again Jan. 7 at Mountain Ridge. The Aztecs Duels match will be Jan. 9-10 at Corona.
Right now, though, the Aztecs are focusing on coming together as a team in preparation to win a state championship.
“Our team goals are simple,” said Macchiaroli. “Come together as one dominating force and wrestle to the best of our ability, and come out victorious.”
Corona’s toughest competition in the Central region most likely will once again be Desert Vista, which won the region last season.
In state, Mesa, Red Mountain and Mountain View always seem to be contenders, even though the Aztecs could be right in the mix if they stay strong as a team.
“This season I think we’re going the distance; actually, I know we are,” said Macchiaroli, who just signed to wrestle at Iowa State next year.
“Along with all the talent we have, I can’t stress enough that our team is set apart by the way we connect and work as one rather then 14 separate wrestlers.”
‘We came up just short last year,” said Felton. “We are making sure it doesn't happen again this year. We want to win the first wrestling state championship at Corona, and we won’t give up until the last wrestler hits the mat.”