Members of the Mingus wrestling team compete on the second day of the Division III state tournament at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.
Division III Wrestling State Tournament Team Standings
1. Thunderbird 121
2. Mingus 105
3. Amphitheater 103
3. Blue Ridge 103
5. Moon Valley 92.5
6. Rio Rico 84
7. Campo Verde 83.5
8. Show Low 72
9. Coconino 70
10. Chino Valley 62
Prescott Valley - Justin Zaske won his second state championship, and the Mingus team placed second in the Division III state tournament behind Thunderbird at Tim's Toyota Center Friday.
"I feel really proud of our team," said Mingus head coach Klint McKean. "Our guys did just about as well as they could have. There's always those what ifs, but after placing third at sectionals, we knew we were better suited to do well at a larger tournament like state. We had Chase Reams come up with big wins, beating a state champion from Coconino. Brandon Morales got into the finals after placing third at sectionals last week. For us to finish second was pretty special; it's a big deal and our guys should be proud. Sometimes it's a disappointment to take second, but other times you're happy with second, and we're happy to be going home with a team trophy. It was a good week."
On the eve of Arizona high school's most important wrestling tournament of the year, McKean's wife gave birth to their third son at 2:30 in the morning. Throw in dealing with grad school earlier in the week and McKean rarely saw the backs of his eyelids for several days. He was still running on adrenaline as the team met to eat dinner after the state tournament.
Mingus had six wrestlers competing on the second day of competition. Zaske, Dillon Lightfoot, and Morales earned a shot to win. Hank Goettl, Chase Reams, and Brian Kaehler had a shot at third.
Goettl made the finals last year and took second. He was an obvious contender this year and after winning at sectionals he was seeded 4th in the 132-pound class. Goettl lost to the No. 1 seed from Rio Rico. Goettl took third by default when the guy he was supposed to wrestle got sick and couldn't compete.
Reams came into the tournament seeded 14th at 138 pounds. He over performed and had a great tournament to place 4th. His third place match was very close and he barely lost to the No. 1 seed from Youngker.
Kaehler placed second at the sectional and was seeded 9th at state. He lost to a Chino Valley wrestler and was one win away from placing.
Seeded 3rd at 145 pounds, Dillon Lightfoot made it to the finals in a final quest for an elusive state title. Lightfoot had a great career at Mingus, placing at the state tournament several times and carrying himself with an approachable wisdom beyond his years. He lost in the finals to No. 1 seed Marky Lopez from Rio Rico.
"He lost to a tough kid, but I couldn't be more proud of Dillon Lightfoot," said McKean. "I told him after the match, "Thanks for being a Mingus wrestler. Thanks for letting me coach you." He was disappointed, but after that initial disappointment I think it sunk in that he's got a lot to be proud of."
It was Morales' last chance at a state title as well. Morales was seeded 7th after placing third at sectionals. Morales caught fire on the first day of the state tournament, scoring 22 points for his team. He lost by one point to Patrick Dalcerro from Chino Valley in the finals. McKean said every time Morales wrestled Dalcerro this year he lost by one point.
History repeated itself positively for Mingus too. After winning his second state title, Justin Zaske is in the company of some all-time greats at Mingus.
"I'm kind of up there with those guys, but they'll still come back and whoop me hardcore," said Zaske. "I can't come close to them."
Zaske surprised everyone last year when he won his first state title. This year everyone knew who he was, but they still couldn't stop him.
"Last year I had to work harder for it, but this year was still a fight and I was scared the whole time. I wanted to repeat so bad, but I was really nervous. Last year I was just going to go for it, but this year it was my goal. I had to do it," said Zaske.
By his side for most of his matches this year, Zaske's father Joel supported him and the rest of the team thoroughly all season.
"It was really nice to share this season with my dad. He wrestled when he was in high school, so I think he was proud when I started wrestling. It's brought us closer together," said Justin Zaske.
Zaske's second state championship final win was likely his last wrestling match. He's planning to attend NAU next year.
The Mingus team will return two state placers next year in Reams and Goettl. They'll have to step up as leaders on a team with some promising young wrestlers.
The Marauders' freshman class this year includes Wyatt Midkiff and Jordan Bramblett. Both took first at the freshman-only state tournament and have the potential to be champions in the coming years.
Thunderbird rode a wave of talented wrestlers and won back-to-back championships the last two seasons. For Mingus to challenge their rival next year, they'll need more commitment from the up and comers.