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A season to remember: 2018 Wrestling

The 2017-2018 wrestling team was made up of 14 wrestlers: 106 Mario Bugarin, 113 Jonathan Ruiz, 120 Anthony Jimenez, 126 Jose Bugarin, 132 Leo Velazquez, 138 Josh Sanchez, 145 Erick Cervantes, 152 Aidan Irwin, 160 Servando Campos, 170 Jacob Sanchez, 182 Carlos Nunez, 195 Jayden Dobson, 220 Shane Garcia and 285 Oscar Vega.

The Criminals opened the season in November with a 34-27 win against rival Kofa. Ruiz defeated two-time state placer Aaron Valenzuela, 6-5. The team then traveled to the Red Mountain tournament in Mesa, where they defeated the defending Division I state champions, Corona Del Sol.

“Shane Garcia and Oscar Vega secured falls to win it for the Criminals,” said head coach Jeff Welsing, who was named State Wrestling Coach of the Year by the Arizona Republic. "It was a huge win for Yuma High!”

Freshman Jose Bugarin and Senior Mario Bugarin went 10-0 and were named to the All-Tournament team.

The team was 14-0 by the time they attended the Marana Mountain View tournament on Dec. 13. Eric Cervantes, Aidan Irwin, Servando Campos, Jacob Sanchez, and Oscar Vega went 5-0 at the tourney. The team suffered their first loss to defending Division II state champions Marana Mountain View, but still ended the tournament in third place, with 12 wrestlers placing in the top 5 of their respective weight classes.

Winter break did not stop the Criminals. They defeated Williams Field to win the Ironwood Tournament on Dec. 29. Vega took first place in his weight class. “Oscar was down 7-2 and tied it up with a 5-point play to send it to overtime,” said Welsing. “In OT Oscar hit a lateral drop and pinned the kid in one of the best comebacks I’ve ever seen.”

Velazquez and Garcia both executed come-from-behind pins to secure the championship for the tournament.

The Criminals won both the Centennial 5-way and Joseph City Tournament in January. Twelve wrestlers went 5-0 at Joseph City. Mario Bugarin, Ruiz, Irwin, Garcia, and Vega took first place in their weight classes. The coaches awarded Ruiz as Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament. 

Yuma went on to host and win a 4-way tournament on Jan. 18. They took second place at the Payson tournament the next weekend, where 13 out of 14 wrestlers placed in the top 6 of their weight classes. Yuma ended the regular season 46-2 in duals after defeating San Luis, Gila Ridge, and Kofa, but succumbing to Cibola at the Yuma City Championships.

The Sectionals tournament took place on Feb. 2 at Youngker. Ruiz, Jose Bugarin, Velazquez, Sanchez, Vega, and Irwin took first place. Mario Bugarin and Cervantes took second, while Campos, Dobson, Garcia, and Nunez took third. The Criminals won the overall tournament for the second year in a row, becoming Division III, Section III champions. Twelve out of 14 wrestlers qualified for State.

The Criminals attended the State tournament in Prescott during the second weekend in February. Vega won by fall in the finals and secured the State Championship for the team. Assistant coaches Bo Seibel and Shawn Doerr described Vega’s performance and subsequent team victory as “unbelievable.” His victory secured Yuma High’s State Championship title by just a half point over Walden Grove, winning 170-169.5. Individually, Ruiz took first in state for the second year in a row. Vega also took first, while Irwin came in second place. Mario Bugarin, Velazquez, and Sanchez took third. Jose Bugarin finished the season fourth in state, and Garcia finished in sixth.

The team came home at midnight to a raucous crowd of supporters waiting for them on campus. Yuma High Athletic Director Steve Anderson organized a victory parade for the team, followed by a pep rally in their honor. This was wrestling’s first State Championship since 1963 and Yuma High's first state championship in any sport since 1990. Both trophies sit next to each other at the Palace Gym on Yuma’s campus.

Emily Rutherford