For the past two-and-half months, the deck was stacked against the Winslow wrestling team.
In what proved to be a recurring theme all season long, the Bulldogs were beset by injuries.
And despite having a lot of things conspiring against them, Winslow coach Scott Larsen says his team has a chance to contend at this year’s Arizona Division IV state wrestling meet, which starts today at the Prescott Valley Events Center.
Last year, the Bulldogs finished as the reserve state champions.
“We have a lot of our kids back from last year but a lot of kids got injured,” Larsen said. “We’re still going to battle and make a run for it.”
Last Saturday, the Bulldogs qualified nine wrestlers to the state meet as they finished the sectional tournament in second place with 165 points, 21.5 points behind St. Johns.
“I think we can punch a lot of our kids in the finals,” Larsen said of the upcoming state tournament. “We’re looking to finish up strong. We have a lot of kids that are starting to peak and hopefully we can be a top two team again like last year.”
The Bulldogs will be leaning on sectional champs Kendal Yabarra (106), Michael Densmore (152), Quentin Begody (220) and Ahli Foster (285) to make a run at this year’s crown.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Foster, who was awarded the top seed in his weight class for this year’s tournament despite missing most of the season with a knee injury.
Last year, Foster was the 195 state champion but he couldn’t certify at that weight. At 205 pounds, Foster decided to wrestle heavyweight this year since Begody is rather skilled wrestler at 220.
“He’s ranked pretty high and he’s a good kid,” Foster said of his teammate.
Foster said winning state last year helps his confidence and he’s going to use that to combat wrestlers much heavier than him.
“It’s a lot more challenge with me being smaller in this weight class,” he said. “I have a weak record right now but it’s a good thing I won state last year. I feel like I can still win. It’s all in the mind.”
Begody, who placed third last year, is looking for a state crown.
“Last year it was a lot harder and I wrestled a kid from St. Johns but he graduated,” he said. “We went back and forth last year but I lost to him in the semifinals.”