Chandler wrestlers dominate at state meet The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler wrestlers dominate at state meet

Chandler wrestlers dominate at state meet
Sports and Recreation

By Brittany Bowyer

Arizonan Contributing Writer


Hundreds of wrestlers from all over Arizona flocked to the Findlay Toyota Event Center in Prescott Valley for the 2020 AIA State Wrestling Championships.

In one of the most difficult sports that tests both physical and mental strength, they left everything on the mat for both themselves and their respective teams. 

Schools in the East Valley had a strong presence in the arena during the boys’ final medal rounds on Friday evening with 63 wrestlers medaling at the event. The girls also had a strong showing on Saturday, with 15 wrestlers from the East Valley medaling. 

While everyone’s path to the state championships is different, the goal is still the same: To go out and win. 

For some, it may have been the first time they’ve ever competed for gold, while for others, it was an opportunity to defend their title and show why they were the reigning champion of the weight class. 

That was the case for Chandler High junior Zach Espalin, who knew it was his time to once again show why he is one of the best wrestlers in the entire state. 

Espalin won gold his freshman and sophomore years, so he came in with a mindset of settling for nothing less as a junior in this year’s state meet. His grit and determination showed as he was able to pin his opponent one minute and ten seconds in to the first period of the round to take gold for the 120-pound weight class. 

“It’s the best feeling in the world being able to compete at the highest level and win at the highest level,” Espalin said.

Espalin gave credit to his teammates throughout the years who have helped him become the wrestler he is today. While he is already focused on being able to come back next year and win his fourth title as a senior, it isn’t his only goal. 

Espalin said he’s also looking to qualify to the United World Wrestling World team in August.  

Chandler finished tied for tenth with Mesa at 70 points in Division I. Perry, meanwhile, placed sixth with 102 points after it had five wrestlers medal. Hamilton placed two spots behind Perry in eighth after four wrestlers medaled. Yessy Marquez finished as the runner-up in the 225-pound class in the girls division for the Huskies. 

It was only the second year there was a state wrestling championship for girls, but the number of participants was up a significant amount from the year before. 

Some wrestlers had the opportunity to step out on the mats and represent their school at state for the first time, while others returned to the championships this year looking to finish in a better position than they did last year. 

For Basha wrestler Amber Rodriguez, this was her chance to come back and compete once again. She placed fourth last year as a sophomore, and this year as a junior, she improved by finishing third place overall in the 145-pound weight class. 

“It was phenomenal, I know we didn’t bring as many girls as we did last time but it’s the experience,” Rodriguez said. “It’s always amazing, and then coming back, I know I didn’t reach goal, I wanted to go for first, but I made a huge mistake, which got me into the rounds for third, but it was still awesome.” 

While placing at state is a goal for many, just qualifying to the state meet is an accomplishment in itself. 

In his first and only year of wrestling at Chandler Prep Academy, senior Isaiah Usher qualified for state, becoming only the third wrestler in school history to do so. As a small school, the program only has seven total wrestlers, which at times is tough. 

“It’s definitely a game-changer, especially with a developing program. We’ve had a lot of struggles in the past,” Usher said. “It for sure starts with God-given talent. I’m blessed with what I’ve been able to go do.”

Although he didn’t medal, he says being able to represent his school on such a large stage was something he will never forget.

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