Jan. 12, 2005 - All the eyes of the high school wrestling world will turn to Tucson this weekend when teams from the Northwest, Arizona and adjacent states compete in what many believe to be the state's biggest tournament.
Canyon del Oro, Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge and Mountain View high schools will be among the 37 schools hitting the mats Jan. 14 and 15 at the 39th Annual Flowing Wells Invitational.
"It's tougher than state in some areas," said CDO assistant head coach Aaron White, comparing the Flowing Wells tourney to the Class 5A state tournament.
Making the trip to Flowing Wells will be annual Class 5A state powerhouses Marcos de Niza, Red Mountain and Mesa Mountain View. All-state wrestling juggernaut Sunnyside, which has dominated in all classes, heads the list of strong Class 4A programs. Along with many of the state's top programs will be tough Texas squads from Franklin, Montwood and Socorro; and teams from Brighton, Utah, and Rio Rancho, N.M.
If history is any indication, Sunnyside should be the team to beat once again. The Blue Devils, long regarded as one of the state's most formidable wrestling programs, have won the Flowing Wells Invitational a record 23 times. The next closest school in tourney wins is host Flowing Wells, which has won its own tournament five times.
Since the opening of Ironwood Ridge three years ago, CDO's once-mighty wrestling program has fallen on tough times due to the loss of nearly half its student population.
CDO, along with Flowing Wells, Benson and Buena, are the four original teams from the first Flowing Wells Invitational. The Dorados have won the tourney three times, including its last win in 1986, which broke a string of eight straight titles by Sunnyside. The Blue Devils then went on to win the next seven. CDO was so dominant in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, that neither CDO or Flowing Wells finished either in first or second place in six of the tourney's first seven years.
With next season being the first year CDO (4-7) will have a full class since seeing its program halved by IRHS, CDO coaches are confident the program can return to its place among the state's finest.
"We're looking forward to seeing the improvement," said White.
As for the Flowing Wells Invitational, White and head coach Steve Gleason hopes to place two or three wrestlers in the championship rounds. Matt Barron, wrestling in the 135-pound weight class, gives the Dorados the best chance to place at the Flowing Wells Invitational.
Barron was the only Dorado to advance to the second day of the Mountain View tourney held Dec. 10 and 11. All four of CDO's wins this season came at the annual Mountain View tournament.
The Dorados, like most teams wrestling in the Flowing Wells Invitational, haven't competed in actual meets since mid-December. During that time the Dorados have hit the mats every day in practice, but nothing compares to the experience of a meet.
"The more mat time, the better," said Barron of the thought of getting back to competition. "We're looking forward to starting anew."
Weigh-ins for the Flowing Wells Invitational will begin at 8 a.m. Jan. 14 at Flowing Wells High School, 3725 N. Flowing Wells Road. The day will be broken into two sessions with session one beginning at 10:30 a.m. and session two starting at 7 p.m. Sessions three and four will begin at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. respectively Jan. 15. Session four will include the championship matches. All matches will be held at Flowing Wells High School.