By Raymundo Frasquillo
During the three most recent seasons, Morenci finished fifth (2014), second (2015) and first (2016) under head coach Casey Woodall.
The Wildcats added 12 points more at the state meet during the second year and 50 more than that in the third year plus had 62.5 more than the runners-up last season.
Did the Wildcats rebuild or reload for Woodall’s fourth season? That is the $64,000 question.
The answer will soon come as Morenci will open its 2017 mat season in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with an eight-team multi-meet Wednesday (Nov. 30) and close out the week as a split squad on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 2-3), 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. Following the 46-team 2016 state meet, the Bobcats ended fourth, the Eagles 16th, the Miners, Tigers and Vandals tied for 23rd, the Yellow Jackets 30th and the Braves 39th.
Woodall can’t tell you the team duals records for his first three seasons. He enters the match results after each meet, but he doesn’t memorize them. He measures success not by a won-loss record, but by improvement.
“It doesn’t matter what the individual records are to me as long as they do their best every time out and improve,” Woodall said. “Wrestling is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle.”
“The first season here was the hardest for me,” he said. ”I didn’t have to do as much work after that. I’m blessed with being able to do something I enjoy.”
The Wildcats have bought into his way of doing things, including preparing during the off-season.
“I went into the weight room after school the Monday the season was over to work on some personal weight lifting and several team members showed up to do the same,” Woodall said.
The 2017 Wildcats will feature an underclassmen-laden roster, composed of 14 freshmen, 13 sophomores, five juniors and just four seniors.
Heading the returning veterans are three state champions; seniors Frankie Gonzalez and Christian White, and junior Derek Waltrip. The Wildcats also return four top four placers in senior Jordan Arbizo (3rd), juniors Nico Carrasco (4th) and Cory Cota (4th) and sophomore Mark Roybal (4th).
White and Gonzalez both have three state meets under their belts. White is a two-time state and section champion going a combined 12-0 with 10 pins during the four meets; Gonzalez is also an unbeaten state champion (4-0, 2 pins) plus a third placer (5-1, 2 pins) and a two-time section champion (5-0, 3 pins), and Waltrip got a pin in four bouts en route to a state title plus is a sectional runner-up (2-1, 2 pins) and third placer (3-1, 2 pins).
Arbizo was also a section champion (3-0, 3 pins) as a junior; Waltrip a section runner-up (2-1, 2 pins) as a sophomore and a third placer (3-1, 2 pins) as a freshman; Carrasco a section champion (2-0, 2 pins) as a sophomore and third placer (3-1, 2 pins) as a freshman; Cota a section runner-up both as a sophomore (1-1, 1 pin) and freshman (2-1, 1 pin) and Roybal a section champion (2-0, 1 pin) as a freshman.
Senior Kyle Sarret and junior Gabriel Cabrera were both sectional third placers (3-1, 2 pins) as sophomores and junior Jacob Vierra is the other upperclassman on the roster.
Underclassmen in the program include sophomores Christian Alva, Collin Batchhelder, Ruben Casillas, Matthew Garcia, Thomas Hollestelle, Tanner Hudman, Issac Pacheco, Jude Perez, Beau Wagner, Nathan Wiley, Mike Wirkus and Nessa Martinez, along with freshmen Brandon Blair, Alex Collazo, Chris Deck, Calvin Dunning, Zach Esparza, Dominick Gonzales, Victor Labroin, Omar Ortega, Cody Redford, Steven Roybal, Ramsey Schenk, Zach Waltrip and Vicente Villa.
Morenci will be at the Pima Multi-Meet on Dec. 7, the two-day Show Low Invitational on Dec. 9-10 and a dual in Saint Johns on Dec. 15 before hosting a dual with Safford on Dec. 29.