AHS Wrestling

Emilio DuComb, Nolan Field, Rocco Mortensen, Mateo Rodriguez and Mark Radonich.

 

The wrestling team at Arcadia High School faced many challenges this year, especially with a season that almost didn’t happen. With the help of a new head coach, the Titans kept pushing forward, eventually qualifying four wrestlers for the state championships.

After Aaron Simpson’s departure, Coach Shawn Carbajal stepped up to fill the head coaching role. As a firefighter with 15 years of experience coaching wrestling (most of them at Red Mountain High in Mesa), Carbajal saw the potential and wanted to make sure Arcadia’s wrestlers still got the chance to hit the mat.

Carbajal came to Arcadia after a brief stint as the head wrestling coach at Prescott High School, where he was a state champion wrestler in 1999. The pandemic brought him and his family back to the Valley. With his daughter at Tavan Elementary School and Arcadia High without a coach just a day before the season started, he got involved – alongside 12 eager athletes.

Although the team didn’t have a big preseason, they got right to work. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before they lost a few athletes, and even those relatively new to wrestling were facing some tough varsity matchups. Injuries and departures left the team with six wrestlers entering the sectional tournament.

Low numbers are nothing new to the team, which has seen several seniors come and go since it started back up in 2017 after nearly four decades without a wrestling squad. 

While there was an opportunity for the Lady Titans team to return this year, there wasn’t enough interest, something Carbajal hopes to see change as girl’s wrestling is one of the fastest-growing high school sports. Despite the small group, he’s proud of how the wrestlers challenged competitors from veteran schools.

“We’re young. I knew walking into it we had to stick to the fundamentals of wrestling and focus on conditioning,” Carbajal said. “I knew we wouldn’t be able to out-technique our opponents. We had to out-wrestle them by being in better shape.”

The team competed in three tournaments and some additional dual meets to use their 12 weigh-ins before sectionals.

“People across the board and most coaches say the section we are in is one of the toughest in the state,” Carbajal said about Division 2 Section 3, naming Casteel High, Campo Verde, and Higley as some of the fiercest competitors. 

“I already knew how tough this section was. I wasn’t even sure how we were going to get any kids to state. It’s not their fault they got stuck in a tough section this go around,” he said.

Even with the challenging competition they succeeded, thanks to the strong core group of kids who came to practice every day and showed their commitment to the program.

“I think it’s a challenge that a lot of these kids come into high school wrestling believing it’s a sport like football or basketball where you can lean on your team, but this is an individual sport. You stand out if you don’t show up, especially when there are only six or seven kids.”

What the new team lacks in accolades and awards, they make up for in determination, as four wrestlers qualified for state – the most in the team’s short history, and especially impressive given the full teams they were competing against. 

At the qualifiers, Nolan Field (28-14) finished third in the 126-pound weight class and Mateo Rodriguez (18-7) came in fourth in his weight class at 150 pounds, an exciting accomplishment for his first year of wrestling. Even though he broke his hand a week into the season, he came back just before sectionals to place.

Arcadia’s other two qualifiers were quarterback Rocco Mortensen (25-21), who weighed in at 190 and placed fourth, and Emilio DuComb (30-14), who took third in the 215-pound class. Carbajal said all of the athletes made him proud.

For the first time in decades, the Titans had state placers in wrestling after success at the Division 2 State Championship, which was held from February 17-19 at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mateo finished fifth in the 150-pound weight class and Emilio placed sixth in the 215-pound class. Nolan went 1-2 in the 126-pound weight class and Rocco went 0-2 in the 190-pound weight class.

“Our goal was to get as many kids as we could through to the state tournament and they all peaked at the right time,” Carbajal said. 

With a memorable season in the books, Carbajal is looking to the future and hopes to see more support and resources for wrestling, not just at Arcadia but throughout the Scottsdale district, which in total qualified 12 boys for state and no females this year. He believes if the district can invest more in junior high wrestling and feeder programs, they will be able to build the program, drawing in athletes when they are younger to get more experience and stay engaged with the sport. 

“We can be just as competitive with the big schools in the east and west valley. It’s just going to take more support from the district for junior high wrestling to take it from a wrestling team to a wrestling program,” Carbajal said.