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Saturday, Sequoia Pathway’s wrestling team competed in the Canyon Athletic Association 2018 Wrestling State Championships. The team finished third behind ALA-Gilbert and Harvest Prep of Yuma.

The Pumas’ five state champions:
Joshua Husick 23-0 (120 pounds)
Igor Husick 35-1 (126 pounds)
Kawehialani Kalulu 15-9 (girls 126 pounds), beat last year’s champion.
Anthony Rohde 38-2 (138 pounds)
Jackson Lee 32-0 (220 pounds)
George Husick Coach of the Year

Lucio Dominguez was second at 285 pounds. Will Senne (132 pounds) and A.J. Anderson (120 pounds) both placed third. Patrick Lisby placed fourth at 106 pounds.

 

Zach Kondravy (submitted photo)

Leading Edge Academy Maricopa eighth grader Zach Kondravy won the state title at the Canyon Athletic Association’s Junior High State Wrestling Championship on Jan. 27.

Zach is the team captain of the  first Leading Edge Academy Maricopa wrestling team. He was 20-0 for the inaugural 2017-2018 wrestling season.

Finishing first at the CAA Junior High ALA Warrior Classic on Dec. 2 and again at the CAA Junior High ALA Gilbert Eagles Classic on Jan. 13, Zach progressed to the ultimate first place finish in the CAA Junior High State Championships.

 

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Noah Salinas came to Maricopa High School for his senior year intent on being part of the sports teams. Photo by Victor Moreno

Most people, when faced with a life challenge, obscure their adversity and then hope to heavens it doesn’t reveal itself. Others dig in and face the opposing force head on.

Maricopa High School graduate Noah Salinas is without a doubt that second type.

Originally from Sterling, Colorado, Salinas, 18, was born missing the lower half of both legs along with his entire left hand, a condition referred to as tri-amelia. Such a condition can severely limit a person’s ability to function, sometimes forcing them into a wheelchair and/or a life of assisted-living.

For Salinas, nothing could be further from reality.

He became an athlete.

Before starting school, Salinas had no concept of being different. It didn’t dawn on him until he showed up the first day of kindergarten and saw other kids without prosthetics.

He returned home that day and received a rather straight-forward explanation from his parents, one that evidently had a major effect on the way he would later approach life.

Soon after discovering this potentially constraining position in life, around age 5 or 6, he found surprising success at one of the activities few would imagine he could even attempt – wrestling.

Noah Salinas upends an opponent in sectional competition. Photo by Victor Moreno

Salinas was a natural athlete, according to his mother Amber, and he became interested in other sports, including the very physical game of football. A few years after playing in a few pick-up games with his cousins, Noah joined a youth team in Colorado.

When trying new, daunting tasks Salinas claimed to never make much of a consideration for his condition.

“I don’t really think about it; I never really let it get to me,” Salinas said. “I just kind of try it and go from there.”

Others are not so capable of overlooking his prosthetics. For those people, Salinas has a special response.

“I would always just make jokes about myself,” he said. “So they knew I didn’t care and that I was going to do what I needed to do to be successful in life.”

While growing up, Salinas switched back and forth periodically between football and wrestling. In 2015, after his family came to Arizona, Noah attended Williams Field High School in Higley and made the football team. Due to the coaches’ attempts to shelter Noah, his mother said, he was never allowed to play in games.

Noah was the recipient of the national Sports Authority Courage Award in 2016.

His family decided to bring him out to Maricopa, where they hoped he would have a chance at playing. Again, he was not on the field much. But, like much of his life, he never really let that get him down.

“I guess they [football coaches] were afraid of me getting hurt,” Salinas said. “I understand that.”

With all the focus on football, he avoided the mat most of his high school career until his senior year, when he thought he’d give it one last try.

He finished with an almost even record at 16 wins and 18 losses in the 182-pound weight class, pinning six of those opponents and earning a respectable 85 points for his team throughout the season.

To give himself better purchase on the mat, Salinas removes his prosthetics when wrestling and instead dawns rubberized socks. Removing his prosthetics gives him another advantage as well.

He towers over most opponents when wearing his prosthetics, standing well over 6-feet tall. However, with his legs removed, he is slightly shorter than most of his opponents, making it more difficult to take him down.

“That makes it so they can’t really get to me the same,” Salinas said.

Photo by Victor Moreno

All athletic prowess aside, Salinas is an otherwise typical teenager, with concerns about girls and friends. But most importantly, Noah is looking to the future.

Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, Salinas is considering a career in welding. And though he hardly ever wears his prosthetic hand because it causes discomfort, he has conceded when it comes to welding he will most likely have to have some sort of prosthetic.

Because of work, Salinas’s family had to return to the Higley-Queen Creek area this year before school could finish. Fortunately for Salinas, he said, his close friend and fellow MHS wrestler Kevin McDill has a “really great” family who offered to let Noah stay through graduation.

Wrestling head coach Erick Fierro chats with Noah Salinas on graduation night.

Salinas plans to attend one of the community colleges in the area to receive the vocational training needed to become a professional welder.

He isn’t afraid of any barriers he could face in the often rough-neck field of metal workers and welders. He simply plans to stay true to his philosophy.

“When somebody says, ‘you can’t do it,’ and I do it anyways, it proves them wrong,” Salinas said. “I like proving them wrong.”

Salinas shows off his prosthetics, a version of which he has worn since childhood. Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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Dakota Halverson (center) with the MUSD board (from left) Joshua Judd, AnnaMarie Knorr, Gary Miller, Superintendent Steve Chestnut, Patti Coutre, Torri Anderson and coach Erick Fierro. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Senior Dakota Halverson was formally recognized Wednesday by the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board for winning the state wrestling championship in Division II, 285 pounds.

Coach Erick Fierro and Dakota Halverson
Coach Erick Fierro and Dakota Halverson

Head coach Erik Fierro: “I am very proud to be Dakota’s wrestling coach. I started two years ago, so I met him two years ago. He was already a tremendous athlete, and I found myself in a very fortunate position to be able to coach a very talented athlete. I always tell him, I don’t know how much I actually did because he’s the one who wrestled. He’s the one that won the state championship and not me. Dakota Halverson, I’m always going to remember you as my first state wrestling champion.”

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Halverson wins section title

Dakota Halverson (left) and Luis Alvarez celebrate their sectional performances with MHS head wrestling coach Coach Erick Fierro. Both seniors qualified for the state tournament. Submitted photo

Dakota Halverson, a senior at Maricopa High School, is Arizona’s Division II Section IV champion.

Halverson won the top spot with his performance at the sectional meet at Campo Verde High School on Saturday. He is ranked second in the state in Division II’s 285-pound class. His record this season is 41-6.

He will wrestle at the Arizona State Tournament Friday and Saturday in Prescott Valley.

And he won’t be alone.

Fellow Ram Luis Alvarez, also a senior, took second place in the 132-pound weight class on Saturday. That qualified him for state, as well. His record is 26-9 this season.

The state championships are at the Prescott Valley Event Center.

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Maricopa Rams wrestling team seniors include (from left) Marc Fairburn, Jaylen Nash, Jackson Stensgard, Robert Beecroft, Noah Salinas, Luis Alvarez and Dakota Halverson. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School Wrestling team put its largely rookie squad to the test at their home meet Nov. 30 claiming a victory in one of two match-ups.

The Rams handily defeated an ill-equipped Notre Dame Prep at their first of two home meets this season with eight wins by forfeit, two by decision and one by fall. Maricopa wrestlers claimed victories at all but one match-up where Maricopa’s 170-pounder David Skelton was pinned by Notre Dame’s Brock Locrikar one minute and 42 seconds into the first round.

Campo Verde put up a much stronger fight, defeating the Rams in 11 of 14 match-ups. Maricopa wrestlers Tylen Coleman (220 pounds), Randy Figueroa (145 pounds) and Kevin McDill (120 pounds), however, all claimed victories by pinning their opponents.

Head coach Erik Fierro is well-pleased with his wrestlers despite mixed results from the first meet. He acknowledges with such an inexperienced team many of his wrestlers still have a lot to learn, but despite their novice level the newcomers are doing well with the responsibilities of being a varsity wrestler.

“I’m really proud of my young wrestlers,” Fierro said. “I expect my seniors to do good, but the new guys are taking on a lot.”

Fierro’s main goal this year is not only to bring home victories but also to expand and strengthen the program by tapping into the potential of athletes from other sports. One of his major selling points in this effort is an appeal to athletes with a more individualistic nature.

“With wrestling, you are the reason you win or lose,” Fierro said.

Wrestling is a sport that also offers others a chance to become more well-rounded athletes who, after wrestling, return to their primary sports with a whole new skill set.

“I’ll take anyone who wants to improve their main sport skills,” Fierro said. “There are a lot of lessons to be learned from wrestling.”

Fierro worked tirelessly during the off season with coaches and directors of other athletic organizations in an attempt to add depth to this year’s roster. As a result of his efforts, Fierro has produced a nearly complete though rookie squad with only the 103-pound and 113-pound weight classes empty.

Wrestling for the Rams this season are three advanced wrestlers, all seniors, who Fierro believes have the potential to make it to the state level. Luis Alvarez (126 pounds), Randy Figueroa (145 pounds) and Dakota Halverson (285 pounds) all bring a level of skill and leadership to the mat this year that could prove invaluable to the team’s success.

Fierro also hopes to see growth in support for the organization. He’s encouraging families and community members to attend matches, home and away, to energize the wrestlers and help push the team to victory.

The Rams compete Wednesday at Tempe High School.

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Halvorson takes 6th in state wrestling

Junior Ashia Laidler Nelson. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team is the last winter athletics team with a chance to win a state title.

The defending champion Lady Rams finished the regular season ranked eighth in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Girls’ Basketball Power Rankings. The top-eight ranking guaranteed Maricopa a spot in the state tournament and allows them to get two extra days of rest by having a bye for the tournament’s first round.

“We’re really scrappy, but I think we have lapses boxing out that we need to address before we play teams like Seton [Catholic],” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I think we’ll try to adjust accordingly to whoever we have.”

The girls will play at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against the winner of 24th-ranked Marana High School (Tucson) and ninth-ranked Cienega High School (Vail). Seton Catholic, which Maricopa defeated last year for the state title, has the top seed.

For the boys’ basketball team, a 10-game winning streak in the middle of the season and a trip to the AIA Division III Section V semi-finals weren’t enough to clinch a spot in the state tournament. Four straight losses to close out the regular season dropped the Rams to 28th in the state ranking.

“We finished just outside the top 24, which was a tough pill to swallow,” Neill said. “It is difficult to look back knowing that if we could have turned one of those losses into wins it could have gotten us in.”

The boys’ team finished fifth in Section V with 4-5 conference record took a “step in the right direction,” according to the coach, by improving last year’s 15-15 overall record to 17-11 this season.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“I was extremely pleased with this season,” Head Coach Jacob Neill said. “We fell just short of qualifying for the state tournament but that doesn’t take away from what we accomplished on the court. Our goal was to come out and be competitive to give ourselves a chance to win on a nightly basis, and we did just that. We didn’t always get the win but our guys played hard and competed from start to finish every time we stepped on the floor.”

In wrestling, junior Dakota Halverson was the only Ram to make it to the AIA Division II State Wrestling Meet. Halverson won his first two matches of the tournament, but tough losses in his next three matches dropped him to sixth place overall.

Photo by Devin Carson
Photo by Devin Carson

Halverson has made back-to-back trips to the state tournament, and he will look to make another run at the state title in 2017.

“I wanted to see improvement,” head coach Erick Fierro said. “I saw a lot of impressive wrestling from my kids and that’s what I wanted to see.”

It has been a promising year for Maricopa athletics, and spring sports (baseball, softball, track and field and tennis) will look to keep the momentum going as they get under way this month.

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Photo by Devin Carson

The Maricopa High School wrestling team has been improving throughout the season and hopes to have a handful of wrestlers make a run at the state title.

As a team, the Rams have won only four meets. However, certain wrestlers, such as senior Dakota Halverson, have made huge strides toward contention.

“Low numbers are why we don’t necessarily win team matches, but the wrestlers themselves, individually, are very solid,” head coach Erick Fierro said. “As far as state in concerned, I’ve got several kids I think will do really well. We’re showing a lot of improvement, so I have high hopes. I want to say half my boys will get there.”

The Rams hosted their last home meet of the year Wednesday night against Skyline High School and Thunderbird High School. Maricopa lost both matches, but the coaching staff felt the team was at the competitive level they should be.

“Huge improvement from the last time we were home,” Fierro said. “I think we matched up really well against them. I saw a lot of impressive wrestling from my kids and that’s what I wanted to see. I wanted to see improvement.”

The Rams were back in action over the weekend at the Bourgade Invitational at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix. The tournament helped the coaching staff gauge who has a shot at qualifying for the state tournament while letting the wrestlers get a feel for the pace of individual tournaments.

Photo by Devin Carson
Photo by Devin Carson

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Seniors Joshua Hall, Desmond Rios and Seth Hendrickson are the upperclassmen for a young Rams wrestling team. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School wrestling team will enter the 2015-16 season with a new coaching staff.

Five members of the Rams wrestling team reached the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Wrestling Tournament last season, but only senior Kenny Gay was able to place in the top six.

This year, the Rams will return quite a few members of the 2014-15 team, including state-qualifiers Marques Jacobs and Dakota Halverson, but they will have plenty of inexperience as well. However, the new coaching staff expects them to learn the sport and compete well.

“I just want to teach the kids what I know,” MHS wrestling head coach Erick Fierro said. “Hopefully they work hard, use what they learn and are successful. We have quite a few kids returning, but me being a new coach, alongside a whole new coaching staff (featuring Carlos Villa and Patrick Thompson as well), they are all new to us.”

Fierro will look to his returning wrestlers to step up and lead the team.

“I see some leadership qualities in many of the athletes.” Fierro said. “At this point they are all pushing each other to better themselves. I have very high hopes for this group of kids.”

The Rams started their season at home on Nov. 24, when they hosted Hamilton High School and Poston Butte High School. They lost to Poston Butte 50-28 and to Hamilton 48-24.

Remaining Schedule:

New head wrestling coach Erick Fierro. Photo by William Lange
New head wrestling coach Erick Fierro. Photo by William Lange

Dec. 2     4 p.m.     (A)     Shadow Mtn. High School
Dec. 4-5     TBA     (A)     Red Mountain High School (Red Mtn. Invitational)
Dec. 9     4 p.m.    (A)     Sunnyslope High School
Dec. 11     Noon     (A)     Perry High School  (Puma Duals)
Dec. 12     8 a.m.     (A)     Perry High School  (Puma Duals)
Jan. 7     6 p. m.    (A)     Mesquite High School
Jan. 12     5 p.m.    (A)     Seton High School
Jan. 15-16     TBA     (A)     Coolidge High School (Coolidge Invitational)
Jan. 20     5 p.m.     (H)     Maricopa High School
Jan. 22-23     TBA     (A)     Bourgade Catholic High School (Bourgade Invitational)
Jan. 27     6 p.m.     (A)     Perry High School
Feb. 5     TBA     (A)     Sectionals
Feb. 6     TBA     (A)     Sectionals
Feb. 11-12    TBA     (A)     State at Prescott

The 2015-16 Maricopa High School wrestling team. Photo by William Lange
The 2015-16 Maricopa High School wrestling team. Photo by William Lange