(Yuma Cibola celebrates after winning Deer Valley's tournament this season. Photo courtesy of Andres Gandara.)
Coach Mike Jankowski is having as much fun as he’s ever had in wrestling.
It helps that Yuma Cibola’s wrestling program is experiencing its most successful season since 1995, when the program won its last state title. But it’s not just the victories that are contributing to Cibola's jubilant moments this season.
“This team has been the hardest working team I’ve had since I’ve been at Cibola,” said Jankowski, Cibola’s third-year coach. “They don’t mind working hard. No kid has complained even when they are dead tired. This is the most enjoyable time I’ve spent in wrestling in 20 years.”
Grinding out another huge victory this weekend is on the mind of Cibola’s wrestlers as well as the best wrestlers and teams in the state.
Beginning on Friday, the best of the best will head to Flowing Wells High for that schools 48th annual invitational, including favorite Mesa Mountain View.
This tournament will prove if Cibola belongs with the state's best. The program finished fifth at state last season in Division I, but Cibola moved down to Division II this season.
But Cibola wrestled like a D-I team when it finished first at Deer Valley, the first big tournament of the year.
“That (Deer Valley tournament) was a big one,” Jankowski said. “That set the tone for the year.”
But Cibola knew way before the Deer Valley tournament that it had a good team. Six of Cibola’s wrestlers qualified for the prestigious ASICS/Vaughan Junior and National Championships in Fargo during the offseason.
Cibola’s Vicente Guerrero (170 pounds) was a finalist at that tournament and won his division at Deer Valley. Cibola also had a good showing at the Reno Tournament of Champions, finishing in 10th place despite competing without two wrestlers who were unable to make the trip to Reno.
Cibola’s Luis Nunez (132 pounds) finished third at that tournament and was named an All-American.
“I don’t really have one guy who can be considered my best wrestler,” Jankowski said. “I have about four or five guys who are up for that (top wrestler). But that’s a good problem to have.”
One of those top wrestlers is 160-pound senior Pierre Guad.
Guad’s senior season also got off to a notable start after he defeated Corona del Sol’s state champion, Ethan Tursini, at Deer Valley.
“Every time those two (Tursini, Guad) compete it is one of the more memorable times for me,” Jankowski said. “The way they go at it is the way you want to see wrestlers wrestle. They are hard workers. They are both good students, classy and fun to watch. It’s the highest levels of wrestling in Arizona. Tursini has no weaknesses. Those two (Tursini and Guad) are muscular and good technicians. Their positioning is outstanding.”
Speaking of top students, Cibola also has a couple of bright students.
Junior Andres Gandara, a state runner-up last year, is ranked sixth in his junior class, and senior Jonathen Arviso is ranked No. 1 in his class.
The success on and off the mat has helped unite Jankowski’s program.
“When I first got the program, this is what I envisioned,” the coach said. “All of the parents know all of the kids. The kids hang out with each other. They’ve developed a bond that will last longer than they realize.”
(Cibola wrestlers (L-R) Pierre Guad, Andres Gandara, Vicente Guerrero. Photo courtesy of Andres Gandara.)