KINGMAN - The end of the road is upon the four Kingman High wrestlers who have advanced to the 2016 AIA Division III State Wrestling Championships today and Saturday at the Prescott Valley Event Center. Mason Wester at 145 pounds, Conner Mahlmeister (195), Christian Barrios (113) and Humberto Ayala (220) have reached the goal of competing in the last tournament of the year, and not one is satisfied with just that.
"Sometimes kids become state wrestlers and they're like 'Yay, I'm here,'" said KHS wrestling coach Brandon Clor. "All these kids have plans. They're mature and I don't expect that."
All four are seniors and Clor has been working with them for years now. The Bulldogs are healthy heading into the tournament, which is always a plus come state tournament time.
Wester has the No. 3 seed after winning the Section I championship and is 39-6. He faces Tucson Sabino's Dalton Partridge (53-17) in the first round and finds himself on the opposite side of the bracket from Safford's Dawon Andrews, who is a freshman but unbeaten at 50-0. Another of Wester's goals this year was to have future Bulldog wrestlers see who he was and the section title gets him that accolade.
"This year I've been working on building a legacy for myself," Wester said. "I've done that now by getting my name on the wall."
Earlier in the season, Wester talked about solving his mental approach to the sport. He's done that, but he's continuing to lean on his new attitude so he can be successful this weekend.
"I just have to get in the right mindset and be thinking 1,000 moves ahead," he said. "I need to go in thinking 'this is the shot I'm taking, but if it fails what am I going to do next?' I need to always be ahead of the game."
Mahlmeister finished second at sectional and drew the No. 8 seed. He's 34-5, and if he gets past Estrella Foothills' Gustavo Ramirez (27-18) in the first round, he'll most likely face No. 1 seed Kyle Rodriguez (47-0) from Tucson Amphitheater.
"We're looking at how he can win a state championship," Clor said. "He's capable of upsetting a No. 1 seed."
Mahlmeister said determination and his energy level are the keys to his success.
"I have to work hard, push myself and never give up," the 195 pounder said. "I'll have to work my hardest when I'm down. Even when I'm losing, I'll have to work myself through."
Barrios (33-8) and Ayala (30-12) each enter the tournament unseeded. Barrios takes on No. 8 seed Trevor Tucker (42-8) from Phoenix Greenway in the first round, and Ayala (30-12) meets No. 6 seed Tito Vega (36-11) from Payson.
"Both of them are in fine positions," Clor said. "Paco (Barrios) will get the one seed if he wins and then he'll have to do a lot of work. Humberto is at the bottom of the bracket. I feel really confident we'll do fine this weekend."