Morenci earns fifth state wrestling title in 10 years

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A fifth state championship trophy was earned by Morenci in eight years following the 2023 state meet on Feb. 18.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Morenci Wildcats earned their fifth title in 10 years under head coach Casey Woodall, the 10th in the most recent 24 seasons, and the second three-peat. The sport is in its 50th year as a varsity program in Morenci. The Wildcats were also the state champions in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2016, 2017, 2021, and 2022.

The Wildcats totaled 194.5 points with eight of 11 entrants placing, or 31 points more than runner-up Yuma Catholic (163.5) with eight of 12 entrants placing. All 11 Morenci entrants contributed team points.

It is the 11th year three or more individual Wildcats have emerged as class champions, the fifth time for three (1999, 2001, 2006, 2016, 2023). Four individual titles were earned four times (2000, 2002, 2003, 2017) and five twice (2021, 2022).

The Wildcats have finished in Division IV top five in each of the most recent 10 seasons (2014-23), with the lowest being fifth during Woodall’s initial season in 2014. The Wildcats were third (2019), runners-up thrice (2015, 2018, 2019), and champions five times (2016-17, 2021-23).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: “I’m just a cheerleader,” 10th-year Morenci head coach Casey Woodall said.

In the same 10-year span, Morenci has placed 64 percent (78-122) of its state meet entrants, with only six exiting after two bouts without contributing team points. The Wildcats have won 65 percent (351-536) of its individual bouts, with 55 percent (194-351) by pins; and earned two team titles without having an individual champion.

There have been 24 champions, 19 runners-up, 13 in third place, 12 in fourth place, five in fifth place, and five in sixth place. The entrants have been 23 as freshmen, with one ending as a champion; 32 as sophomores, with eight champions; 33 as juniors, with seven champions; and 34 as seniors, with eight champions.

Class of 2017 grad Christian White earned three titles (178, 182, 195); 2015 grad Santiago Robledo (Hwt.), 2022 grad Cody Torres (152 in 2021, 157 in 2022) plus 2024 members Breck Williams (106 in 2021, 113 in 2022), Noah Torres (126 in 2022, 138 in 2023), and John Provencio (138 in 2022, 150 in 2023) two apiece; and 2017 grads Frankie Gonzalez (170 in 2016) and Jordan Arbizo (Hwy. in 2017), 2018 grads Derek Waltrip (106 in 2016), Cory Cota (120 in 2017), and Nicholas Carasco (138 in 2018), 2019 grad Mark Roybal (132 in 2017), 2021 grad Marcus Morales (126 in 2021), 2022 grad Jericho Sanchez (Hwt. in 2022), 2023 members Jaeden Seballos (120 in 2023), Solomon Lucero (120 in 2021) and Arturo Rodriguez III (220 in 2021) one each.

The Wildcats ended fifth in 2014, scoring 146.5 points, or 83 fewer than champion Camp Verde (229.5); second in 2015, scoring 158.5 points, or 8.5 fewer than champion Camp Verde (229.5); first in 2016 with 208.5 points, or 62.5 more than runner-up Winslow (146); first in 2017 with 218 points, or 48 more than runner-up Saint Johns (170); second in 2018 with 146.5 points, or 25 fewer than champion Saint Johns (171.5); third in 2019 with 144.5 points, or 38 fewer than champion Eloy Santa Cruz (182.5); second in 2020 with 155.5 points, or 48 fewer than champion Santa Cruz (199.5); first in 2021 with 301 points, or 117 more than runner-up Yuma Catholic (184); first in 2022 with 201.5 points with seven entrants or 26 points more than runner-up Yuma Catholic (175.5); and 194.5 points in 2023, or 31 more than Yuma Catholic (163.5).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pictured are, from left, Merrick Williams, Trent Nelson, Jaeden Seballos, and Kiano Torres.

In the same 10-year span, Morenci has been the sectional meet winner eight seasons, scoring 36.5 (215.5-179) more points than the runner-up in 2015, 68.5 (230.5-162) more in 2016, 148.5 (285.5-137) more in 2017, 128 (255.5-127.5) more in 2018, 51.5 (190-140) more in 2019, 89 (235-146) more in 2020, 80.5 (259.5-179) more in 2022, and 57 (236-179) more this season.

Morenci has eight section titles in 10 years under Woodall. The Greenlee County boys qualified 12 of 14 (2015) entrants, 13 of 14 (2016-18), 9-13 (2019), 12-13 (2020), 13-14 (2022), and 11-13 this season. The meet was postponed and canceled in 2014 due to health concerns regarding skin disease and in 2021 because of the ongoing global health crisis. There were 13 and 14 Wildcats entered at the state meets in 2014 and 2021, respectively, the seasons without a section meet.

In addition, Morenci has been region champions nine times (1992, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2003, 2005, 2009-10), and 1A/2A state champions five times (1999, 2000-01, 2003, 2005).

“The first season here was the hardest for me,” Woodall said. ”I didn’t have to do as much work after that. I’m blessed with being able to do something I enjoy.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pictured are, from left, Michael Casillas, Noah Torres, Breck Williams, and John Provencio.

Woodall can’t tell you where the team will finish at any season’s end, whether hoisting the top award or not, but he can tell you the Wildcats will be prepared to do their best every time they set foot on the mat. He measures success not by a won-loss record, but by improvement.

“It doesn’t matter what the individual records are to me,” Woodall said, “as long as they do their best every time out and improve.”

The Wildcats in the program have bought into his way of doing things, including preparing during the off-season. It is a result of what Woodall has been doing, ‘cultivating a lifestyle of excellence’ in the Wildcats by ’riding for the brand.’

“The boys work hard, I’m just a cheerleader,” Woodall said. He was quick to point out he couldn’t have prepared the Wildcats as they have been, without the help of his assistant coaches, Tim Williams, Travis Torres, Zach Buccellato, Frankie Gonzalez, and Anthony Gomez at the high school level along with Mark Martinez, Josh Salas, and Nick Sanders at the middle school.

“They are indispensable in the success of our program and work very hard behind the scenes to help our kids,” Woodall added.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pictured are, from left, Stosh Vineyard, Marcus Lucero, Hollis Corbell, and Austyn Nelson.

The Wildcats have scored 1,942 points with 64 (78-122) percent of its entrants placing, 24 as champions, during the most recent 10 seasons (2014-23). But, they won’t be scheduling perennial power Tucson Sunnyside for regular-season duals anytime soon.

“We have a long way to go before we can do that,” Woodall said.

The Blue Devils have scored 2,154.5 points with 75 (94-126) percent of its entrants placing, 45 as champions, during the same 10-year span.

Woodall (10 years, 2014-23) is the ninth different head coach for Morenci. He follows Jason Howard (5 years, 2009-13), Vince Buccellato (2 years, 2007-08), Gilbert Padilla (26 years, 1981-2006), Lynne Nuttall (3 years, 1980, 1975-76), John Pash (1 year, 1979), Bill Havice (1 year, 1978), Sam Walter (1 year, 1977), and Dan Goddard (1 year, 1974).