Mesa Mountain View has always fielded a strong wrestling program. It flies under the radar perhaps because the Toros have only state title in nearly 40 years of competition. Never mind eight runner-up finishes and last year's solid fourth-place finish in a tight Division I state meet. It's titles that get noticed.
Well, a second title may be in the offing later this week. Mountain View coach Bob Callison, now in his eighth season as head coach, is convinced the body of work the 2013-2014 team has produced is the best he's seen in his tenure.
"Based on what this team has done, it's the strongest of the teams I've coached here," Callison said. "There's a lot of competition in the room. Guys push each other to keep making them better."
What has Mountain View accomplished heading to state in 2013-2014? For starters the Toros stretched their dual-meet winning streak to 51 wins with a 26-0 mark. The Toros won a dual-meet invitational in New Mexico and the ASU Blackford Duals just before Christmas.
Mountain View participated in the Reno (Nev.) Tournament of Champions Invitational just before the Blackford Duals where they placed fourth. While that wasn't a championship, to Callison's knowledge, it's the highest an Arizona school has ever finished at the tournament. The Toros followed that by winning the Mile High Challenge in Prescott the first weekend of January. They bested Ironwood Ridge by 15 points for the top spot.
If those accolades weren't enough, late last month Mountain View won the prestigious Flowing Wells Invitational for the first time, besting Sunnyside, Cibola, Corona del Sol, Ironwood Ridge and Chandler. All of them -- save Cibola which competes in D-2 -- should make noise at state if not challenge Mountain View for the title.
It's quite a resume the Toros have and Mountain View would enjoy icing the cake by adding a final piece on Friday (Feb. 14) and Saturday (Feb. 15) when it shoots for the Division I crown at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Mountain View returned three state placers from last year -- sophomore Paden Mason (5th at 106 pounds), sophomore Jerod Booth (5th at 126) and senior Ryan Gallo (6th at 135). That wouldn't be a huge panic-inducer to other contenders, but add senior Cayman Nielson (state placer in 2012), junior Blake Monty (state placer in 2012) plus the arrival of Utah junior transfers Weston and Kieffer Taylor (state placers in Utah) and the Toros have seven wrestlers who've earned a state medal.
Callison believes now his team may be a bit stronger than they showed at Flowing Wells with a couple lineup changes from that meet. The changes reside mainly among the 132 through 160 (5) weight classes. The return to action from a football injury of Nielson started the chain reaction of changes. Nielson is wrestling 152. Nielson's insertion at 152 meant Monty (145), Gallo (138) and Angel Dominguez (132) dropped a class from where they wrestled at Flowing Wells. Weston Taylor, who wrestled up at 182 much of the season, has dropped to 160. Nicolas Estrada has replaced Weston Taylor at 182. Nielson and Monty both placed at state in 2012 as a sophomore and freshman, respectively. Both were injured before or during the state tournament last season and did not place.
In last weekend's sectional Mountain View qualified 13 of 14 wrestlers for state with eight champions, three runners-up a third and a fourth. The Toros won the sectional by 100 points. No D-I school qualifed more wrestlers for state than the Toros.
Defending D-I champ Sunnyside, Ironwood Ridge (up from D-2), Corona del Sol and Chandler have a handful of returning state placers -- just like the Toros. If Mountain View's lineup is as deep as thought that in itself may earn the Toros a title. They'd like some individual champs to punctuate a title should they win it. They won one individual title in taking th crown at Flowing Wells, so its depth was a key.
(Teams and fans can now download the state wrestling tournament programs for free. Photos and rosters of each team and stories previewing each wrestling state tournament will be in the programs.
The programs will be available to view this week here: http://www.aia365.com/programs.)