Bradshaw, Chino Valley wrestlers hit mats Friday, Saturday at Verde Duals
Bradshaw Mountain and Chino Valley high schools' wrestling programs will indeed be tested at the 19th annual Verde Duals Friday and Saturday at Camp Verde High School.
As part of a 16-team field that's divided evenly into two pools, the Bears and Cougars will both grapple in a total of seven duals, including five today and two on Saturday.
The tournament starts Friday morning at 11 at Camp Verde's high school and middle school gyms. It continues Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. with the last part of the duals, and concludes with the individual rounds all afternoon at the high school.
Admission is $8 per person for an all-day pass and $3 for students.
Longtime Camp Verde wrestling coach Bob Weir said that most wrestlers get nine matches over the two days, which helps both upperclassmen and underclassmen gain experience.
"My opinion is, the more matches the better at the beginning of the season," he said.
Pool A consists of Bradshaw Mountain, Wellton Antelope Union, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, host Camp Verde, Glendale Copper Canyon, Vail Empire, Peoria and Tuba City. Those teams will wrestle at Camp Verde High today.
Pool B features Chino Valley, Marana Mountain View, Cottonwood Mingus Union, Mohave Valley River Valley, Scottsdale Salt River, San Manuel, Phoenix Sunnyslope and Buckeye Verrado. Those squads will grapple at Camp Verde Middle Friday.
In Pool A, Weir said Camp Verde, Empire and Peoria are favored to place in the top three. In Pool B, Chino Valley, Marana Mountain View and Verrado are the favorites.
Weir added that the tournament field has a strong mix of teams that wrestle with different styles.
"The Phoenix schools are really good on their feet, and some of the White Mountain schools are better on the bottom," he said.
Weir also separated the teams in the pools based on how they placed at state last winter and their number of returning state placers to try to make the field equal.
Camp Verde, the Division IV state runner-up in 2011-12, has won this meet several times. Over the past decade, the Cowboys have captured four state championships and three state runner-up trophies.
For Bradshaw Mountain, first-year coach Gordon Cobb and assistants Jeff Brown and Shea Kindig are missing a few wrestlers, although they took a mostly complete team to Camp Verde.
The Bears, who are rebuilding their program, opened the season in late November with losses to Glendale Ironwood, Prescott and Flagstaff High. But last weekend at the Peaks Invitational in Flagstaff, BMHS saw some positive signs.
Russ Dodge, a 170-pounder, and senior Jordan Seeman, at 132, finished third in their respective weight classes at Peaks and could make some waves this weekend.
"I'm expecting the competition at the Verde Duals to be even greater than what we saw against Page and Coconino (at Peaks), and Flagstaff and Prescott," Cobb said. "But we're going to bring some good intensity."
Bradshaw traveled to Camp Verde without freshman 106-pounder Brian Stolz, who's at a school band competition. The Bears will also forfeit at 113 as they bring along freshman Eduardo Iribe to eventually fill that spot.
Those Bears wrestling with Dodge and Seeman include Anthony Monroe at 120; Ian Cobb and Jarett Cain at 126; Cody Russell at 138; Chris Flannigan at 145 (in place of the ill Zack Steck); Cody McGee at 152; team co-captain David Snell at 160; Evan Wood at 182; Pete Hodan at 195, who placed fourth at Peaks; John Trout at 220 (in place of the injured Duane Ehrlich); and Sage Cook at heavyweight.
Despite Bradshaw's upward trend, last Saturday at Peaks a couple of Cobb's wrestlers suffered injuries.
One of them, sophomore heavyweight A.J. Hash, who's a former middle school state champion, sustained a concussion. He may not return this winter.
"We're trying to heal those wounds up and keep going," Cobb said. "We're excited to be where we're at, even though it's not (ultimately) where we want to be. We're going to keep working and keep working, and see success a step at a time."
At Chino Valley, coach Allen Foster's Cougars are cruising.
Last Saturday, the Cougars won the Wickenburg "Are You Tough Enough?" Invitational, as five of their grapplers captured first-place finishes.
On Wednesday in Flagstaff, Chino handily defeated a pair of solid programs in Lakeside Blue Ridge and Flagstaff Coconino.
Several wrestlers pace Chino, including 106-pounder Kendall Foster, Stockton Heiner at 113, Kody Davis at 120, Joe Pontin at 126, Gary Medevielle at 132, Taylor Marshall at 138, Spencer Coffin at 160, Eric Mannix at 170 and Kishan Batcheldor at 195.