Last year, the Mountain View Mountain Lions (17-3) wrestled their way to the title in the 23rd Annual Mountain View Dual Tournament.
This year, they weren’t far off from doing it again.
The Mountain Lions – a younger and less experienced team than in 2011 – finished third place in a field of 16 teams representing all four high school divisions. But age has nothing to do with heart so far this season, according to head coach Paul Ponce.
“We have a young team this year that is tough and eager to learn each day,” said Ponce. “We are starting three freshman and five sophomores. So, eight out of 14 are underclassmen.”
And while experience (and eventually the tournament trophy), went to St. John’s High School, Mountain View came away from the tournament with something to call their own, when senior Bailey Janis was voted Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament by coaches.
“It feels great to get other coaches’ votes, and to know they liked how I wrestled,” said Janis.
For even the casual follower of high school wrestling, the feat is no surprise, as Janis is currently undefeated at 26-0 this year, and looking to repeat a state championship performance as he did last year in the 113-pound weight class.
This year, Janis is wrestling at 120 pounds, and despite a near flawless season last year, Janis says things are only looking better this time around, though there is always room for improvement.
“I’ve improved a great deal since last year,” said Janis. “There are always little things you can do to get to the next level of wrestling, like not just focusing on scoring from top to bottom, but scoring neutral and on my opponents’ mistakes. I’ve really put in a lot of work in the off season.”
Though Janis acknowledges the team is somewhat weaker this year, he was happy to see them string together the loose ends to come up with a third place finish.
“Our team really came together toward the end, and that was nice to see,” said Janis. “We’ve lost two seniors this year, but the kids we have now will be great years down the road.”
Mountain View defeated Cienega 38-21 to finish third place behind Washington Union, a Fresno-based school.
Morenci placed fifth after defeating Safford for the first time in years, with a score of 40-26.
Mountain View has placed in both tournaments it has entered this year, the other being the Camp Verde Invitational, where the team finished second.
The Mountain Lions will next head to Prescott on Jan. 4-5 to compete in the Mile High Challenge at Tim’s Toyota Arena.