Keller Rock wins 2nd state title, defeats 3-time state champion
PRESCOTT VALLEY — Keller Rock of Chino Valley was the star of the night Friday at the Findlay Toyota Center as the 2019 AIA state wrestling championships came to an end.
At 170 pounds, Rock faced off against Robert White of Safford who came into the match sporting a 54-1 season record, three state championships and an overall record of 3-0 against Rock.
It was a tight competitive contest, with each wrestler getting the better of some exchanges throughout the first two periods and they headed to the third tied at 2-2.
With the time ticking away, it seemed a matter of who would get the match win would score a take down late, when Rock took advantage of an opportunity putting White on his back, securing a pin and a second state championship in three years with 23 second remaining.
“That match means a lot,” Rock said. “That makes our record 1-3 against him and I’ve only beaten him once and that was the win, and when I’ve lost those matches against him because I haven’t stuck to the game plan like me and my dad have planned. This match I stuck to the game plan and it worked out. He’s a hell of a competitor and I have a lot of respect for that dude, he’s good.”
The match was one of strategy and each wrestler making sure not to make a mistake. Rock alluded to not sticking with the game plan in the past, but Friday night he focused primarily on his positioning.
“The game plan was to wrestle smart and you have to stay in really good position, if you get out of position with him, he’ll catch me and that’s how I lost my three matches against him,” Rock said. “I got out of position and didn’t stick to the game plan, so just staying in position and finishing the match (was my focus).”
Rock’s victory makes him a two-time state champion, in addition to a third-place finish last season, and although he returned to Chino Valley this season, there were times when Rock contemplated leaving.
“It was a tough decision,” Rock said. “I didn’t know if I was going to wrestle high school (this year), (because) I was thinking about going to a private wrestling school, but it didn’t really work out. It’s nice to finish the season off with a state title since I stayed at Chino. We’ll see what happens next year, but it means a lot, from deciding to stay at Chino to winning a state title.”
The Cougars had six other wrestlers competing Friday outside of Rock, with two others competing for state championships in the finals as well.
Results: 113-pounder Colby Evens (2nd), 120-pounder Wade Payne (4th), 126-pounder Lane Evens (3rd), 152-pounder Kyle Lund (2nd), 182-pounder Dakota McMains (2-2) and 285-pounder James McCormick (2-2).
The Badgers were successful on day one moving half of their team into Friday’s matches with three wrestlers competing.
Results: 132-pounder Lincoln Eby (5th), 138-pounder Andrew Salberg (4th), and 170-pounder Koby Coates (6th).