February shapes up one of the year’s busiest for Corona’s athletes, with the winter sports teams starting postseason action and the spring sports teams gearing up for tryouts.
Although the girls basketball team and the boys soccer team did not make it to the state tournament, Corona’s wrestling team, girls soccer and boys basketball teams are poised to advance to the state tournament.
Corona Wrestling — Corona’s state-champion wrestling team was challenged to defend its back-to-back state title in the Division I, Section III tournament that was scheduled Feb. 3-4 at Gilbert Mesquite. It was the first time the new AIA postseason format was due to be used to determine who qualifies for the state tournament.
Previously, school teams and individual wrestlers qualified for the state tournament through region tournaments and then went on to compete in their weight class at state. This season, instead of classes and regions, wrestlers now need to qualify at sectionals, depending on divisions. The top four wrestlers in each of the four divisions will move on to the state tournament.
Although it sounds simple for Corona’s two-time state-champion team to be able to defend its title, this sectional format makes it harder to qualify wrestlers and get good seeds in both the sectional and the state tournaments.
“At this point, all the coaches are anxious about how the new NWCA database is going to be implemented for seeding in the sectionals,” said Aztec head coach Jimmy Martinez. “If coaches were accurate and completed all competition, there should be no surprises. However, some coaches will not have done what they are required to do, and the AIA will have to determine how they will address those issues when it relates to seeding wrestlers.”
To begin with, Corona will be competing in the toughest section based on the competition Martinez has seen in the regular season. The Aztecs will compete against Sunnyside, the Division II state champ last season and the team favored to win state and Corona’s section. Also in the Aztecs sectional will be highly competitive individual and team wrestlers from Chandler, Highland and Dobson, according to Martinez.
Although Corona’s goal is to get 14 wrestlers into the state tournament to earn as many points as possible to defend their state title, Martinez thinks the Aztecs will have to wrestle well and have a few upsets to advance even 12 individuals to state.
“In a couple of weight classes, we have as many as four of the top eight wrestlers in the state coming from our section,” said Martinez. “Our strengths should be Simon Allen (215), Jason Landrum (145) and Ryan Cox (152). Ryan will have the defending state champion, Kory DeBerry, in his section to qualify for state.”
Leading up to the sectionals, the young Aztecs, with five freshmen and one sophomore, had not lost a single regular season dual meet and did well at the tournaments. Corona took third at the Westwood Tournament, first at Moon Valley, and first at the Aztec Duals.
“We won some tough matches against good opponents this season,” said Martinez “We defeated Red Mountain 31-30 at the Westwood Classic. We also lost to Mesa at the Westwood Classic 24-23, after we beat them 52-16 three days earlier.
We wrestled Mesa Mountain View to a draw, and won on criteria on Jan. 5., then defeated LaQuinta out of California by three points in the finals at the Aztec Duals , even though we were down 28-0 before coming back to clinch the title.”
“I was very proud that our young team was able to get seven individual champions at the Aztecs Duals,” said Martinez. “I expected guys like Cox and Allen to win but I was pleasantly surprised that Robert Butler (130), Jason Landrum (145), Ethan Tursini (140), Pablo DeLeon (171) and Steven Rodrigues (285) won.”
“Landrum was also voted Outstanding Wrestler and freshman Tursini upset Dobson’s Jake Allen, who is ranked third in the state at 140 pounds.”
Heading into sectionals for the first time is an unknown but Martinez has high hopes that his team will do well at sectionals and then at state.
“Simon Allen is 36-0 for the year having faced the toughest wrestlers in the state,” said Martinez. “As long as he wrestles well, he should be a favorite to win a state title.”
“Ryan Cox will have to pull an upset to win a title from DeBerry, the best wrestler in the state and in our section,” said Martinez. “I believe that we should have some good results from Landrum, DeLeon and Jay Tucker as well. Our freshmen, Glenn Farnina, Zach Walton and Ethan Tursini have great records and have the potential to pull upsets to possibly place this year at state.”
The Division I state tournament is scheduled Feb. 10-11 at Tim’s Toyota Center, 3201 N. Main St. in Prescott Valley.
Girls Soccer — Corona’s girls soccer team, sporting a 12-5-2 record, won four out of their last five matches to end up ranked No. 6 in power ranking points and was set to face off against No. 11 Mesquite in the first round of the 5A DI state tournament on their home field.
The Lady Aztecs lost to Mesquite, coached by former Corona assistant coach Scott Smith, earlier in the season 1-0.
“That earlier game could have gone either way,” said Corona head coach Matt Smith. “I think we are prepared to give it another run but will need to be solid defensively, attack as a team and be good on set pieces.”
“We will also have to rely on our senior group of Micah Jones, Emily Tucker, MyKaylin Rosenquist, Addi Guevara, Kendall Barrett, Colby Bounds and Sammie Weber to remind our younger players about what it takes to win.”
Maybe the Lady Aztec’s young team will need to remember their incredible run to the state finals last year in order to defeat their most likely second-round foe, if they get past Mesquite, No. 3 seeded Highland, on Feb. 5.
Smith admits Corona will need defensive stoppers and offensive plays to beat Highland.
“Defensively, our starting back line of Rosenquist, Dallas Johnson, Kelsey Cartwright and Olivia Montoya have been fantastic,” said Smith. “Offensively, we have been relying on everyone to do their job and contribute.”
“For instance, in our win against Dobson on Jan. 25, we had five goal scorers in a 5-0 win,” said Smith. “Keeper-wise, all four have done a tremendous job—Colby Bounds, Kate Halligan, Taylour Rohme and Lexi Bounds. Each has done everything I have asked, and it was probably the toughest decision I have made in my 11 years at Corona to decide to go with Lexi as the starter for the playoffs.”
Smith shared one crazy statistic from the regular season. In Corona’s 19 games, only one of the teams playing was able to score. All of Corona’s 12 wins were shutouts and the five games they lost were also shutout. Their two tie games were also 0-0 shutouts.
If Corona makes it past Mesquite and Highland, the next state tournament match is scheduled Feb. 9 at Campo Verde High School at 5:00 p.m.
Corona’s No. 4-ranked boys basketball team (17-2, 6-2 region) was on a nine-game winning streak before losing to Mesquite Jan. 21. The Aztecs went on to defeat Mesa Mountain View, the leader in the Central region at 7-1, Jan. 25, by seven points, 50-43.
Currently ranked No. 4 in power point rankings behind Buena, North and Mesa, the Aztecs are in a good position to go deep in the state tournament.
“Our challenge now,” said head coach Sam Duane Jr., “is to keep playing on a high level so we can not only get a good seeding in the state tournament but have some momentum going in.”
The Aztecs lost to Fairfax on Feb. 1, 46-51, and were scheduled to play at Bashan on Feb. 3.
At press time, four games were left in the Aztecs’ regular season before heading into the postseason. They will play at home against Dobson, Feb. 8, at Gilbert Highland, Feb. 11, at Mesquite Feb. 15 and then close out the season at home in a non-conference game against Desert Vista, Feb. 17.
All-City Fall Student Awards — Seven Corona athletes received Tempe All-City Fall Student Awards at this year’s TACA banquet. Haley Kesteloot and Kasey Kiefer received awards for volleyball, Chloe Hacker in 1 meter diving, and Dana Finkelstein for girls golf. Jared Hirschl received an award for cross country while Todd Peat and Andrus Peat both received awards in football. Andrus received his award for offense line and Todd for defensive line.
Boys Soccer — Corona’s boys soccer team was not be able to defend its 2010 5A Division I state championship title, just missing a spot in the state tournament by .0838 points coming in at No. 17 in power rankings. Regardless, the team came together, after a slow start and was able to win the last four regular season games to end the season with a 7-9, 2-2 Central region record.
The Aztecs started the season slow after losing some of their star players from last year’s team to graduation and to club soccer. Several key players decided to play at the Real Salt Lake-AZ Academy in Casa Grande.
“The doors that the Academy opened for some of Corona’s players (were) probably too good to pass up,” said senior team captain Graham Hemmingson. “I only wish that they had stayed and played in their final senior year because we would have been a completely different team with them.”
The Aztecs rallied late in the season, faced with being shut out of the state tournament for the first time in years, had big wins against Basha, 7-3, Jan. 21 and 3-0 against Gilbert Highland in their final game, Jan. 27.
“Playing our last home game, senior night, we wanted to win big against Basha,” said Hemmingson. “We scored early and often with goals by Tyago Martins, Ed Magana, Christian Johnson, Drew Johnson and myself.”
“Defensively, Matt McGuire had a great game against Basha. He didn’t let anyone get past him, and Zach von Allworden hustled back to block a shot,” said Hemmingson. “Both keepers, Keith Williamson and Brandon Johnson, each played a half, managing to stop most of the goals.”
Honored at the Basha game in addition to seniors Christian Johnson and Hemmingson were seniors Cary Schwartzstein, Mat McGuire, Nick Nist, Albert Chiu, Dylane Ndoye and Shay Conners.
The Aztecs won their last game of the season 3-0 against Gilbert Highland.
“The team came out very strong and rallied to try to get into the playoffs as the last seed but we fell short,” said goalkeeper Brandon Johnson.
“Zach von Allworden, Drake Brockway and Matt McGuire played exceptional defense in our shutout win against Highland,” said the Aztecs leading scorer, Christian Johnson, who had 14 goals on 37 shots throughout the season.
Two Corona Baseball Players Sign with JCs — Two Corona baseball players signed early with community colleges to play baseball next year. Chris Gammon committed to Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Heath Dwyer committed to Yavapai.
“I am really proud of both of them; they have worked very hard and deserve the chance to compete at the next level,” said Corona’s head baseball coach David Webb.
“The JCs in Arizona are second to none, and I am sure both of them will do a great job.”