‘Pure, unadulterated heart’
Page fields trio of wrestling champs
PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz.
A year after winning two individual state crowns, the Page wrestling team surpassed that number last Friday night.
The Sand Devils left their imprint at the Arizona Division IV state wrestling tournament with three state champions.
Sophomore Zachery Ruiz got things started by posting an OT victory in the 113-pound bracket. In similar fashion, junior Kimball Begay needed an extra session to outlast his opponent in the 195 finals. Senior Cheyenne Richardson capped a blissful day for Page as he captured gold in the heavyweight division.
“It’s a great day for Page High School,” Sand Devil coach Kyran Keisling said. “I coached a long time for a day like this. They don’t happen very often to where everything just comes together.
“The kids wrestled with heart and they wrestled to the end,” he said. “They beat kids with tenacity and determination so this is the most satisfying feeling a coach can feel.”
As the tournament’s top seed in his weight division, Ruiz lived up to that billing by enduring a 6-4 OT triumph over Cael Porter of Mogollon. In the extra period, Ruiz rolled out of a headlock for the win.
‘This is a great feeling,” Ruiz said. “I’m just thankful that I was able to roll out of his headlock as quick as I did.”
Early on he trailed 4-0 but the Page sophomore battled back and took a 5-4 lead heading into the third period. Trailing 6-5, Ruiz sent the match to OT with Porter assessed a point for stalling.
“I had to be more offensive-minded,” he said of his comeback. “If I didn’t I wasn’t going to score.”
With the match going back and forth, Keisling said the state title could have gone either way but Ruiz came into the championship match with the intent of winning.
“They were just very evenly matched and it came down to that last little bit,” he said. “Overtime usually comes down to the kid that is better conditioned and technically sound. They also need to want it more and Zach is all of those things.”
Keisling said Begay’s match played itself out in a similar manner.
“I felt like we won those two matches with pure downright unadulterated heart,” he said. “You got to have that in overtime.”
While trailing 4-2, Begay came up with an escape to send the match into OT against top-seed Caiden Hall of Willcox High. In that extra session he came up with a takedown to come away with a 6-4 win.
“I was laser-focused,” Begay said. “During practice I worked hard drilling, trying to keep up with my conditioning because in state you’re going to get matches like this to where someone is going to test you.”
In the last finals of the tournament, Richardson cast out plenty of doubt as he pinned Phoenix Northwest Christian’s Dominick Sahhar in the second period while trailing 5-4.
“I thought Cheyenne was going to quit but he rolled him,” Keisling said. “He stuck him and that’s another match won by heart.”
With Richardson playing basketball at the start of the season, the Page coach said, “He’s as green as they get but he’s athletically gifted.”
“His strength and speed is uncanny,” he said.
With the points he earned very hard to come by, Richardson said he never lost hope.
“All your motivation is right here,” Richardson said, while pointing to his chest. “Winning the championship was in my brain the whole time. I was not going to lose in front of my family. I had a will to win.”