Sat, Dec. 14

Depth returns to stable Camp Verde wrestling

Camp Verde’s Benji Perez finished fifth in the 126-pound weight class at the state meet last year. VVN/James Kelley

Camp Verde’s Benji Perez finished fifth in the 126-pound weight class at the state meet last year. VVN/James Kelley

After a bit of a rebuilding year last season, Camp Verde High boosts much more depth this season.

Last year they barely had double digits as the program transitioned but this year they more than fill each weight class.

“We’re looking pretty strong,” CV assistant coach Ryan Allred said. “This year we had a lot of kids come out. We had 35 kids come out and it’s averaging around like 26 kids at practice. We have a few kids returning from last year and a lot of our newer kids are all freshmen or sophomores. So it’s looking very good.”

Although they finished 15th last year at state and Anthony Tinghitella won his second state championship, the Cowboys had to rush to get ready for last season. The contracts of former head coach Tracy Tudor and assistant Mario Chagolla were not renewed last October and so Larry Allred, who had been coaching Camp Verde Middle School took over the program.

Plus some wrestlers transferred to Mingus Union, following Chagolla.

“It was a rebuild year,” Ryan Allred said. “We definitely had a lot of challenges. We were kinda thrown in, my dad and my brother in law and me…just kinda getting on our feet, getting used to things but now we have more kids, definitely a lot more organized this year and so it’s looking a lot better. And those kids from last year, they stuck around, so they’ve been able to help a lot this year.”

Not only do the Cowboys have depth, they have better camaraderie.

“Last year we struggled to have a full roster,” Ryan Allred said. “It just seemed like there was either a skin infection going around or we were struggling with somebody’s grades but this year with the numbers and all the really good personalities that we have in here, they’re supporting each other, they’re working on their grades together, watching each other’s skin and we just have all around better morale and we got two deep in every weight class.”

The interior of the Cowboys’ wrestling room also got a facelift, being repainted and now featuring inspirational quotes on the wall like “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”

“This program kinda just went through a hard time for a little bit and when we came in here, me and my dad and a few of the coaches we all got together and just kinda talked about how we wanted to get rid of that old environment and renovate; new era,” Ryan Allred said. “These kids, they pour their hearts into this sport, they really do, and they don’t deserve anything but the best, so I had coaches as I grew up that they put their time into me and I think that goes down the line with every coach and so we wanted to give back. So that’s how this all came about.”

The school paid for some of it and the coaches chipped in the rest and did the work in their free time.

By the entrance the newspaper clippings were replaced by framed photos and the accomplishments of state champion Cowboys like Ryan Allred, the first Cowboy to win four high school state championships.

“I think it’s really good to have those examples and to see that it’s achievable,” Ryan Allred said about the wall of fame.

“Lots of times you set a goal and it’s like having that idol, that person that’s already achieved that goal, it shows you it’s possible. Some people set goals and are like ‘man, I don’t know if I can do it,’ but when they look up there and they see these people and a lot of these people are coming back and returning and giving back to these kids, they see them and say ‘hey, you’re here, you’re helping me, I can do this.’ And so I think it’s really important for their morale.”

Last season the Cowboys sent five boys to state and they return all of them except Tinghitella, who graduated. Senior Benji Perez took fifth in the 126-pound weight class last year.

“They’re doing really good,” Ryan Allred said. “A lot of them have a really good chance at placing high this year at state as long as they stay focused. And with these kids I have no doubt that they’ll stay focused, I mean they’re eager, they pay attention and they responded really well with all the coaches.”

CV opens the season on Saturday at the Yavapai County Duals at Emby-Riddle.

“Pretty tough tournaments this year,” Ryan Allred said. “We replaced a few, we got Mile High, which is a really strong tournament that’s coming up. We have Embry-Riddle duals, which is coming up this weekend, so that’ll be a pretty good tournament.

“We’re building our schedule to be tougher because we’ve always looked at it as if you have a really tough tournament, that’s even harder than the state championship, then when the state championship comes around, the kids are like ‘okay, I’ve seen harder, I can do way better here.’”

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