WILLCOX — Benson and St. David high school’s wrestling teams were two of 15 schools to compete in the Division 4 section 2 wrestling sectional tournament Saturday, with a trip to state on the line.
The Bobcats will be well represented in Prescott Valley after qualifying five of their wrestlers during the meet at at Willcox High School, and the Tigers will have two of their four wrestlers grapple for a medal at state. The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for this weekend’s state tournament.
St. David will send its first ever wrestlers to the state tournament. Jeremiah Toyota and Brayden Merrill will represent the Tigers in Prescott Valley. Head coach for the Tigers Leon Peterson said they didn’t have any state qualifiers last season, which was the first year the school had a wrestling program.
Toyota and Merrill are two of St. David’s four wrestlers who completed the season. Their reward were fourth place finishes at the sectional tournament. Toyota, 113, lost by injury default in the third place match and Merrill lost by major decision to Shawn Hudman of Morenci.
“They’ve done well all season,” Peterson said. “It’s exciting. ... I’m really excited for them and hopefully this can help build our program.”
Morenci finished first once again as they qualified twelve for state and earned 235 points. Of the 12, five finished first in their respective weight classes.
“I thought our effort was outstanding today. We were hustling and working hard which is what we ask for, so we were very pleased with that. We have a few technical things to clean up before state, but overall it was a good day,” said Morenci’s coach Casey Woodall.
Dante Smolinski, Conner Curtis, Clayton Sherman, Ralph Grassi and Clayson Goodwin finished in the top four of their respected wight classes for their spot at state.
“Overall, as a team, we have our good days and some bad days, we got some going to state so we are excited for that,” Smolinski said.
Sherman, 145, and Goodwin, 220, finished first in their weight classes. Both picked up their championship wins by fall. Sherman defeated Marcus Olivares from Willcox and Goodwin was victorious over Trever Pruszynski of Pima. Goodwin is looking for his fourth consecutive state championship. Smolinski, 132, finished in third with a win by fall over Joseph Howard of Thatcher. Curtis, 120, and Grassi, 182, earned claimed the fourth and final spot for their weight classes.
The Division 4 state tournament begins Friday and concludes Saturday at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Eastern Arizona Courier sports reporter Ricky Crisp contributed to this story.