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Sedona readers know that developing, maintaining and protecting their local biking, hiking and horse trails is important. But to Camp Verde and Cottonwood readers, U.S. Forest Service projects are coming soon to their local recreational trails as well.

George Werner

Adjacent to Cornville Road, for instance, horse trailer accommodations are planned for the development of a trailhead at a location known as the Yavapai County Asphalt Mixing Table.

Further east, just outside of Rimrock and south of Montezuma Well, six miles of trail loops are in the works. These Sunset Trails, as they are called in a decision notice authorized by Red Rock District Ranger Nicole Branton, “serve the local residents who identified the importance of this project” and could be in place as early as next year.

For the full column, please see the Wednesday, Oct. 7, issues of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

The Mingus Union High School wrestling room needs an overhaul.

The decaying locker room for Mingus Union High School wrestlers needs the district’s bond to pass at election Tuesday, Nov. 3 in order for the building to be renovated and expanded. A large hole in the plaster, sagging fire suppression lines and an extension cord, strung through a low, collapsing ceiling to power electronic scales, are just some of the issues confronting coaches, students and other regular users of the 33-year-old facility.
Originally built in 1982, the 2,200-square foot facility suffers from, among other issues, loose wires, a sagging ceiling, no drinking fountain and a lack of central air conditioning. It is the only building on campus still ventilated solely by a swamp cooler.

“It doesn’t have air conditioning, and it needs it, especially when we’re in here practicing,” said MUHS English teacher Klint McKean. “In 2007, they switched all the buildings over to new units, and, for some reason, this building was left out.”

The building, which is also used — as it has been over the past 33 years — for aerobic workouts in such MUHS classes as body conditioning, weights and physical education, lost its drinking fountain after it stopped working in 2013, McKean said.

“The bathroom is inadequate [and] needs to be improved,” he said. “It works, [but] there’s not a drinking fountain in the building anymore.

“The heating and cooling need some serious work.”

Mold, the scent of which is immediately apparent upon entering the facility, also grows directly under the wrestling mats.

“So we need new floors,” McKean said. “We need to have space to put our mats down. Right now, we have to roll up two-and-a-half of our mats in big storage units behind the building and bring them in and out.

“A lot of the mats have been damaged in transport. They’ve been cut.”

According to McKean, an idea shared by Paul Tighe, district superintendent, would call for the renovation and expansion of the wrestling room to a two-level facility covering 7,500 square feet.

“It would give us more space, which we need when we’re running our offseason practices and we have our whole kindergarten-through-12th-grade group in here at once,” said McKean, whose Mingus Mountain Wrestling Club practices in the facility. “More than that, from what I’ve been told, the whole impetus of making this building bigger is to add classrooms to it.”

Under the plan, a ramp would connect at least four classrooms on the top level of the facility to a multipurpose ground floor, expanded on the slope north of Bright Field back to the MUHS auxiliary gym. There have been no cost estimates discussed for the proposal, McKean said, which would be contingent upon the passage of a district bond in election Tuesday, Nov. 3.

“This is not the reason for the bond,” said Anthony Lozano, district board member and MUHS wrestling coach from 1973 to 1987. “We have so much more to address. But this is within the idea.”

Voters need to register to vote by mail-in ballot by Monday, Oct. 5. Approval would mostly provide for more immediate capital upgrades for the district such as desks and buses.

In its 10-foot ceiling, just three vents, hooked up not to MUHS central air but only to a swamp cooler, ventilate the 2,200-square foot building, which could add another floor for classrooms and more than triple its size with the passage of the bond.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 30, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Late to Weekend Wars was much better than never for rookie wrestler Zach Athey.

Zach Athey, 10, is one of the up-and-coming wrestlers for New Breed Wrestling. The Camp Verde Elementary School fifth-grader took first place in the last two Weekend Wars of the season.
Athey, starting his final year at Camp Verde Elementary School, has already won two Weekend Wars in a row at 122 pounds — although he weighed exactly 125.9 pounds going into his final tournament of the season
Sept. 19 for New Breed Wrestling Club.

“I’ll take new challenges,” Athey said during practice at the Sterrett Wrestling Complex. “I wanted to get good enough sparring.

“I’ve sparred with kids in Flagstaff who came down here to wrestle.”

But the fifth-grader, whose parents first brought him to Mario Chagolla Sr., his New Breed head coach, and are allowing him to continue to spar at Sterrett through the winter, is still looking for wrestlers his own size.

Sparring partners Caiden Wolfe and Hunter Zellner are a year to two years younger than Athey — and up to 45 pounds lighter.

Athey, in his Sept. 5 debut at Weekend Wars, pinned all five opponents he faced. He estimates that in his first month at Sterrett, he has pinned 10 to 20 opponents.

“He couldn’t believe that he was dominating,” Chagolla said. “He’s still immature, young in the muscles.

“What I like is that he’s fearless. Oh my gosh, he’s got speed.”

For the full story and final month's results from Weekend Wars, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 30, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

If it wins its last five Verde Valley League matches and postseason tournament games at home, the Clarkdale-Jerome School A volleyball team will have gone undefeated for a full calendar year.

Eighth-grader Olivia Gordon sets the ball for her teammates to hit during the Clarkdale-Jerome School volleyball A team win Sept. 15 in three games over Big Park (above). The Mingus Rams have two developmental teams as well as a B team developing 45 players in the program, but it is the A team which hasn’t lost since Nov. 1.
No pressure, though.

“We’re thinking positive and we don’t want to get big heads,” head coach and athletic director Lynda Chavez said after the Mingus Rams [9-0] came back to beat Big Park Community School in a tiebreaker, 16-25, 25-17 and 15-12 on Sept. 15. “It was a little nerve-racking, but fun match. I’m pretty proud that they were able to fight for points and work hard together.”

The Coyotes, Camp Verde Middle School and West Sedona School have been the stiffest tests for the Mingus Rams in a season of straight-set sweeps.

“There’s always pressure about being undefeated,” said eighth-grader Olivia Gordon, whose sets and blistering serves helped Clarkdale come back from a 7-2 deficit to Big Park in the second game. “Every single game, you’re thinking, ‘Is this the one?’

“But we learned that, if we’re too scared of our opponent, we’re not going to grow as a team. If we always stay positive, and if we act like a team, we’ll be OK.”

Not even undefeated Cottonwood Middle School, who fell in a Sept. 10 scrimmage, has been able to knock them off their perfect perch.

For the full story, schedule and more photos, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 23, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Susan Holm is upfront about the fact that this will be her only season as head coach of the Camp Verde Middle School volleyball program.

Eighth-grader Lauren Ontiveros bumps the ball for a Camp Verde Middle School teammate to set. The Cowboys look to get above .500 and avenge a home loss to West Sedona School with a match Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Wildcats.
“I’m only doing it when my kid’s involved,” said Holm, mother of eighth-grade setter Bennett Holm and a former Camp Verde High School head volleyball coach 20 years ago. “I know that’s selfish, but next year, she’ll be playing in high school. I’d be torn between here and there.”

Whether the position will pass to her assistant, B Team coach Karen Crownoble, or another candidate is not a focus for Holm when she has 33 girls, including a recreational C team, to play Wednesday, Sept. 16, against Clarkdale-Jerome School.

“We decided to not cut any girls,” Holm said. “[I’m] excited how this addition will change the success of future seasons. This is in an effort to allow girls to build on their skills and feel confident about coming out next year too.”

While the C team cannot travel with the A or B teams to away games, every C player, she added, has made “tremendous improvement every time they touch the volleyball” so far in Wednesday scrimmages.

“Girls just need to become more familiar with this sport before they get to seventh grade,” Holm added. “The disadvantage is that there is not a natural feeder program to this sport."

For the full story and season schedule, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 16, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

If it were up to Zack Calandra, Cottonwood Middle School might still be playing at Northwest Christian School.

The Cottonwood Middle School Lobos played against Payson last week. Eighth-grader Steven Earl runs full tilt away from the defense and toward the goal line.
The new Lobos head football coach felt the sting of defeat for the first time since 2013 in a 35-28 loss Tuesday, Sept. 8, on the road against the Crusaders. He was not happy about it.

“We got robbed,” he said after CMS dropped to 1-1 with eight games remaining in its fall schedule. “There were bad calls from the beginning to the end of the game. It was terrible.”

Among the issues Calandra took with game officiating were: A pass ruled an interception that he said bounced off the turf and into the arms of a Crusaders defensive back; a catch ruled complete he said was made one yard out of bounds by a Crusaders wide receiver; and interference with the opportunity for a Lobos punt returner to make a fair catch that the officials never called.

“They even came up and apologized to us for that one,” said Calandra, a local contractor better known as the broadcast voice of the Mingus Union High School football team. “The clock kept stopping on plays when it should’ve kept running. All kinds of that stuff was going on. Six calls beat us.”

The last came at the Lobos’ 15-yard-line with four seconds to play and the game tied. A catch he said was made a full yard out of bounds at the 15 was ruled complete, giving the Crusaders a final shot at the end zone they converted in the final play of the game for the win.

“There were four parents ready to go onto the field,” Calandra said. “They had videos they took from the stands showing the player was out of bounds when he made the catch."

For the full story and season schedule, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 9, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Initial results are mixed from the first two weeks of Verde Valley high school football in new Arizona Interscholastic Association alignments.

George Werner

Mingus Union and Sedona Red Rock high schools won their season openers Aug. 21, while Camp Verde High School continued to struggle after losses to SRRHS and Holbrook High School.

But as a favorite Game Day prognosticator is fond of saying, not so fast, my friends: Confidence is high all three schools will be playing new rivals next year.

In fact, they may not even be in divisions or sections anymore. Every coach and athletic director with whom I’ve conversed on this topic at Camp Verde, Mingus and Sedona Red Rock high schools believe this alignment is going to be strictly a one-year arrangement, with the AIA rumored to be returning to as many as seven conferences — or even classes, as teams were organized for most of the 20th century.

This was originally supposed to be a three-year arrangement between the AIA and its member schools — who, in the Verde Valley, are so spread out competitively, there is a sport in every division but Division I this season.

It’s why, starting this fall, we’re including sectional standings with our high school coverage, because you need to know what the most important games are to your team.

And you need to know how they did in each game as soon as possible. That’s why the call is going out in this column to all coaches of Verde Valley sports: Email me your scores and team rosters.

For the full column, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 2, issues of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Wrestling is more than a family thing for Trina Bentley’s husband, Rich.

Weekend Wars takes place in the Sterrett Wrestling Complex, and the Bentley boys were all excited to participate Aug. 22. From left are Ethan, 5, twins Nathon and Collin, 7, and Tylor, 10.
“It’s a tradition in our family to wrestle at home and beat each other up,” Rich Bentley said with a twinkle in his eye Friday, Aug. 28, before four of his nephews arrived at the Sterrett Wrestling Complex. “It’s natural. You know how boys are.”

Not only is he a former high school wrestler, his father, brother, nephew and uncle also all are former wrestlers at Mingus Union High School.

“My dad, Richard, was actually the first national kickboxing champion out of the Verde Valley,” Bentley said. “We had three kids that went to Mingus and one to Sunnyslope.

“Now I get to show my nephews. They’ve been out at the ranch, learning muay thai.”

It was no traveling show, though, that came to the Sterrett Wrestling Complex in Camp Verde in the form of four of Bentley’s nephews Aug. 22. At the end of their first day of Weekend Wars, three of them had finished runners-up in their weight classes for New Breed Wrestling.

The favorite part of wrestling for all four Bentleys is taking down their opponents, something they were doing plenty of.

“It’s amazing,” Trina Bentley said. “For Tylor, it has completely brought him out of his shell and [given] a confidence I don’t think I’ve ever seen in him.”

For the full story and Weekend Wars results, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 2, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

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