The high school wrestling season has started. West Valley Preps and the Surprise Independent asked local coaches about their teams. Here are their responses.
Coach: Jalan Pugh (first year as head coach)
Section: Division III, Section I
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? With us being a brand new program I think it’s just the willingness to get better everyday.
What are some weight classes that will need to be shored up for the season to be a success? 113 and 175
Who are your team leaders? Rylen Rinaldi and Gunner Nicholls are the team leaders.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Like I said this being a first year program everyone is new but Rylen, Gunner, Jeremiah and Peyton can have a big impact on our first year success.
What are some of the more anticipated matches and tournaments on your schedule? The Demon Classic is a big tournament for us and the Wickenburg Tournament will help gauge where we’re at in the program building process.
Coach: Shane Tamez
Section: Division II, Section I (boys) Division I, Northwest Section (girls)
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? In the coming season we are all striving to be state champions and to have even more state placers than we have had in the previous years. For both the girls and boys varsity teams, we are striving for multiple first place matches and medals within the tournaments we are competing in. This is the first time in Willow Canyon history where we have had a full girls and full boys varsity team. The JV team this year is the biggest we have seen in all the years the program has been around. There are around 40 athletes in JV alone, making the wrestling team, as a whole, the largest we have ever had. This rise in numbers has been a trend for the past few years with every year producing more numbers and more of those who want to try the sport out. The backbone of this every year’s team is determination, but this year, we are seeing it tenfold. A majority of our varsity returners have become more determined in placing at state or even being state champs. More of the team has taken to off season wrestling and going to multiple club practices as well as school practices in order to meet the goals they desperately want. The improvement seen in the wrestling room from our veteran wrestlers has shown just how committed to the goals they have set for themselves.
What are some weight classes that will need to be shored up for the season to be a success? In the previous years, the boys team had a difficult time in filling the lower weight classes, but this year we see an abundance in all the boys categories. In the girls weight classes as well, it was a struggle to fill the weight classes past the 138 pound weight class, but this year we have filled these classes with ease and even have enough girls for a JV team.
Who are your team leaders? Billy Newlin (Sr.), Dom Jewell (Sr.), Mateo Valencia (Jr.), Lea Lerner (Sr.), and Jazmine Rivera (Sr.)
This year, the boys have all new captains, Billy Newlin and Dom Jewell were appointed at the end of their junior year, rolling into their senior year as captains. Mateo Valencia was appointed as a captain at the end of his sophomore year and is going to be the junior captain for this season. Lea Lerner and Jazmine Rivera are carrying over their titles as captains for the girls varsity team from the previous year. These five captains are determined to lead their teams to the state competition this year and will show great dedication in showing leadership skills for their team.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? This year the boys varsity team has three newcomers. Andrew Manore was a newcomer last year but due to injury he was unable to fulfill the season from start to finish. This is his first year as a varsity wrestler at the 175 weight class, where he will hopefully continue for the remainder of the season. Another newcomer is Ryan Miller, he was a varsity wrestler his freshman year but took his sophomore year off. This year he has rejoined the team where he secured a spot at the 113 pound weight class. Finally, on the boys team there is a first time varsity wrestler at the 150 pound weight class, Peyton Bridge. Peyton has wrestled for two years at the jv level and is stepping up to the plate this year as a varsity member for his senior year. The girls varsity team has produced two new members, Heaven Norman and Alivia Fernandez. Heaven wrestled during the off-season her freshman year, but due to an injury she was unable to compete. This year though, she will be competing at the 185 pound weight class at the varsity level. Alivia is a freshman that has filled the spot for the 126 pound weight class. She has a bright future with the team and has the potential to compete at the varsity level all four years of her high school career.
What are some of the more anticipated matches and tournaments on your schedule? The Peoria Tournament of Champions and the Moon Valley Tournament are the more anticipated tournaments for the boys team. Last year, the Peoria Tournament was tough as it was the first year Willow Canyon participated, but this year we should see major improvement from the boys, as they now have a feel for what is to come. Moon Valley is a tournament that is another new one for both the boys and girls. This is highly anticipated and should offer some good competition. The girls team anticipates the Jerry Benson Tournament at Buckeye High School, where we took first as a team the previous season and came home with multiple medals. The Mile High Tournament is also excitable for the girls as we have not participated in it since the 2019-20 season.