Wildcats open mat season at home Wednesday

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Senior Jacob Vierra, 2017 state runner-up, gains an advantage over sophomore Willey during a recent practice session. Vierra went 3-1 at the state meet and the same in the sectional for third while Wiley also went 3-1 at the sectional, but 0-2 at state. Morenci opens its season at home Wednesday.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Morenci opens its 2017 mat season in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with an 8-team multi-meet Wednesday, Nov. 29, and closes out the week as a split squad Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2, half in the Gila Valley Invitational and the other half in the Mesa Red Mountain Invitational.

Scheduled to join Morenci are the Benson Bobcats, the Globe Tigers, the Miami Vandals, the San Carlos Braves, the San Manuel Miners, the Thatcher Eagles, and the Tombstone Yellow Jackets.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci junior Mark Roybal works on a move with senior Nicolas Carrasco as Coach Woodall checks positioning. Roybal was a state champion (4-0, 3 pins) and Carrasco third (4-1, 1 pin) last season, and both are two-time sectional champions with a combined 14-1 record (10 pins) in five meets.

At the conclusion of the 47-team 2017 state meet, the Bobcats were fifth, the Eagles 19th, the Miners 22nd, the Tigers tied for 26th, the Yellow Jackets tied for 34th, the Braves tied for 40th, and the Vandals did not qualify.

Morenci returns seven of 13 state meet participants from last season. Four placed in the top three, two as champions, one as a runner-up, and the other in third.

Seniors Gabriel Cabrera, Nicolas Carrasco, Cory Cota, and Jacob Vierra plus juniors Ruben Casillas, Mark Roybal, and Nathan Wiley are the returning state meet participants.

Cota (4-0, 1 pin) and Roybal (4-0, 3 pins) were both state champions while Vierra ended as state runner-up (3-1) and Carrasco in third place (4-1, 1 pin).

Cota is 9-4 (3 pins) during three state meets, also placing fourth (3-2, 1 pin) as a sophomore and did not place (2-2, 1 pin) as a freshman; Carrasco 9-6 (3 pins) during three state meets, also fourth (3-2, 1 pin) as a sophomore and sixth (2-3, 1 pin) as a freshman; Roybal 7-2 (4 pins) during two state meets, also fourth as a freshman (3-2, 1 pin); Vierra 3-1 for one state meet; and Cabrera 1-4 in two state meets, not placing (1-2) last season nor as a sophomore (0-2).

Carrasco is 9-1 (7 pins) in three sectionals, champion as a junior (4-0, 3 pins) and sophomore (2-0, 2 pins), and third as a freshman (3-1, 2 pins); Cota 6-2 (3 pins) in three sectionals, champion as a junior (3-0, 1 pin), and runner-up both as a sophomore (1-1, 1 pin) and freshman (2-1, 1 pin); and Roybal 5-0 (3 pins) in two sectionals, champion as both a sophomore (3-0, 2 pins) and as a freshman (2-0, 1 pin).

Cabrera is 5-2 (4 pins) in two sectionals, third as a junior (2-1, 2 pins) and sophomore (3-1, 2 pins); Vierra 3-1 (1 pin) in one sectional, third as a junior; Casillas 3-0 (2 pins) in one sectional, champion as a sophomore; Wiley 3-1 (2 pins) in one sectional, third as a sophomore; and sophomore Steven Roybal 1-2 (1 pin) in one sectional, not placing as a freshman.

Morenci finished fifth (2014), second (2015), first (2016), and first (2017) in four state meets under head coach Casey Woodall.

The Wildcats scored 146.5 points in his first year, added 12 (158.5) more in the second year, 50 (208.5) in the third year, and 71.5 (218) more than last year. As champions, the Wildcats totaled 62.5 (208.5-146) more points than the runner-up in 2016 and 48 (218-170) more than the runner-up in 2017.

In the same four-year span, Morenci has been the sectional meet winner three consecutive seasons, scoring 36.5 (215.5-179) more points than the runner-up in 2015, 68.5 (230.5-162) more in 2016, and 148.5 (285.5-137) more in 2017. A sectional meet was not held in 2014.

“The first season here was the hardest for me,” Woodall said. ”I didn’t have to do as much work after that. I’m blessed with being able to do something I enjoy.”

Woodall can’t tell you where the team will finish at season’s end, whether hoisting the top award or not, but he can tell you the Wildcats will be prepared to do their best every time they set foot on the mat. He measures success not by a won-loss record, but by an improvement.

“It doesn’t matter what the individual records are to me,” Woodall said, “as long as they do their best every time out and improve.”

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Fifth-year Morenci wrestling head coach Casey Woodall gives a demonstration of a move he wants the Wildcats to practice during a recent session. The native son is a two-time state champion with an unbeaten record as a junior and a 2002 MHS grad who pursued his dream at the next level, becoming a three-time collegiate Academic All-American and two-time athletic All-American at Adams State College in Colorado.

The Wildcats in the program have bought into his way of doing things, including preparing during the off-season.

Three of the four members of the class of 2017 were offered college scholarships for their hard work in the classroom and in wrestling, Jordan Gregory Arbizo to Northwest Kansas Technical College, Francisco Mendoza Gonzalez to New Mexico Highlands University, and Christian Diego White to Newberry College.

Others in the program are juniors Alex Garcia, Beau Wagner, Michael Wirkus, and Nessa Martinez; sophomores Brandon Blair, Carlos Bray, Calvin Dunning, Omar Ortega, Jeremias Pena; and freshmen Conrad Aguallo, Francisco Araiza, Dominique Delgadillo, Joseph Hernandez, Mark Martinez, Marcos Morales, and Mark Martinez.

Anthony Garcia, Gilbert Padilla, Leonard Morales, Ray Morales, and Travis Torres are assisting Woodall.

Morenci will be at the Pima Multi meet on Dec. 6, the 2-day Show Low Invitational on Dec. 8-9 and a dual in Safford on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats will compete in five meets during January, hosting a dual with St. Johns on the 9th, the two-day New Mexico Silver Triangle on the 10th, the two-day Doc Wright Invitational in Winslow on the 12-13th, the Thatcher Multi on the 16th, and the Globe Multi on the 24th.

The state-qualifying sectional meet is Feb. 3 at a site to be determined and the two-day state meet is Feb. 9-10 at Prescott Valley.