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Isaac McKean, right, at 78 pounds, executes a move taught by his father, Mingus Mountain Wrestling Club head coach Klint McKean, on fellow fifth-grader Avery Romero at the Mingus Union High School wrestling room. Isaac McKean finished runner-up in his weight class at the Terminator World Championships in March and will be attending a Grand Canyon University camp, which begins Tuesday, May 26

The newest Division I wrestling program in the National Collegiate Athletic Association is coming to Mingus Union High School.

After a meteoric rise the previous seven years to become one of the powers of Division II, Grand Canyon University is following up its first year against the biggest and the best in college wrestling with a camp Tuesday through Thursday, May 26 through 28, beginning at 9 a.m. at Mingus Union High School.

“They always bring in a lot of good junior college and Division III transfer wrestlers,” said Klint McKean, head coach of the Mingus Mountain Wrestling Club. “They’d still be one of the top teams in Division II.”

McKean’s son, Isaac, runner-up at the Terminator World Championships, and 65-pound champion Kai Miller are looking to develop new techniques at the camp.

“That technical foundation is what we really want young wrestlers to get out of it,” McKean said. “You’re getting a Division I athletic coach basically doing a team practice, three days in a row, all day long.

“The expertise, the new technique, the level of knowledge they’re getting, is priceless — just far above any coaches they’re getting around here.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, May 20, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

He has won 354 Major League Baseball games and the most Cy Young awards of any pitcher in the history of the sport — yet remains an outsider to its Hall of Fame.

Roger Clemens, the pitcher with the most Cy Young awards in the history of baseball, signs an autograph Thursday, May 7. Clemens was in the Verde Valley for golf and for his wife, Debra, who is selling jewelry at a local gallery — taking time out of that schedule to talk baseball with local high school players and The Camp Verde Journal.
That exclusion, after three years of eligibility, is how allegations of congressional perjury about steroid use have followed Roger Clemens into retirement since 2007. But if any of that bothers “Rocket,” as he was known in his hard-throwing days for the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, he showed no sign of it while visiting in the Verde Valley with his wife, Debra, who is selling jewelry at a local gallery.

In an exclusive interview Thursday, May 7, with The Camp Verde Journal, Clemens, father to four sons — two of whom are baseball players themselves — reflected on the highlights of a 24-year major league career as well as his family and professional legacy.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, May 13, issues of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

As the school year draws to a close, it feels like the end of an era in Verde Valley sports.

George Werner

In most sports, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has realigned Camp Verde, Mingus Union and Sedona Red Rock high schools into different divisions and sections for the next three years.

That means that in football, for instance, the Cowboys and the Scorpions will still play each other, but only for bragging rights.

Less explicable is Mingus Union High School’s baseball and boys soccer teams playing in a lower division than their counterparts in softball and girls soccer. Eight days later, head girls soccer coach Thomas “Buddy” Rhodes retired after a highly successful decade with the Marauders.

State small schools championships at Clarkdale-Jerome School are on hold, at least for basketball — cancelled this season due to scheduling conflicts. This had been an annual tradition between the Navajo Nation and Verde Valley League teams for nearly 30 years.

Add to those changes dozens of departures of on-campus coaches as well as young athletes, particularly from the Sedona area, and those who stay become even more deserving of notice.

Don't forget to follow @sedonanews on Twitter for the latest updates regarding all the news affecting Sedona and the Verde Valley.

For the full column, please see the Wednesday, May 6, issue of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Ultimately, Clarkdale-Jerome School’s softball team proved it was banner-worthy.

Joel Rosenberg, left, the first-year head softball coach at Clarkdale-Jerome School, worked with assistant coaches Janae Gordon, second from right, and Nate Dixon to win the Verde Valley League tournament. After having won just one game the year before, the Mingus Rams completed their turnaround from worst to first by defeating Camp Verde Middle School for the first time Saturday, April 25, at the Oak Creek School in Cornville.
The pitching of seventh-grader Mikayla Brogdon and production of eighth-graders Delaney Hartnett and Lindsey Jones denied Camp Verde Middle School’s attempt to repeat its Verde Valley League softball title Saturday, April 25.

In the Mingus Rams’ 7-6 victory over the Cowboys at the Oak Creek School in Cornville, they not only completed a full turnaround from a one-win season last spring, they walked the talk of first-year volunteer head coach Joel Rosenberg.

“Some coaches have this attitude, ‘I just want a winning season,’” Rosenberg said March 26. “My goal for the end of the year is to hang a banner with the girls’ names on it in the gym.”

Although Clarkdale did it on the field with a four-run first inning and three-run fourth — coming back to also beat Mayer Elementary School and host Oak Creek along the way — the confidence to step up to Camp Verde’s challenge was established by Rosenberg and his staff by the end of the first week of practice.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, April 29, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Two high school and two middle school wrestlers captured weight class titles Saturday, April 25, at a national wrestling tournament in Las Vegas.

Junior Matt Mejia, top, wrestles Camp Verde High School teammate, sophomore West Phillips, at a recent Weekend Wars. Phillips won the 113-pound title Saturday, April 25, at the West Coast Nationals America Crown tournament in Las Vegas. Mejia finished runner-up in the 132-pound weight class.
Conrad Noone, nicknamed “the Assassin” by his Camp Verde Middle School teammates, took out all competition at 135 pounds to win the West Coast Nationals America Crown Wrestling Tournament. Noone had been working on a comeback with his father, CVMS assistant wrestling coach Brady Noone, after sitting out more than a year due to injury.

“He and his father took on a systematic approach and worked hard on their own time to develop,” said Mario Chagolla Sr., New Breed Wrestling director and CVHS assistant wrestling coach. “Their dedication will pay off this coming season.

Fellow seventh-grader Korben Uhler took down all comers at 115 pounds for first place.

“Both [sophomore] Oscar Berrelez III and Korben Uhler prove that if you dedicate yourself and work hard, you will succeed,” Chagolla said. “They have shown steady improvement each and every week. They also have great balance, core strength and quickness.”

CVHS sophomore West Phillips and freshman Daniel White also won titles at 113 and 120 pounds, respectively.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, April 29, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Four Camp Verde Middle School baseball and softball players were named to the all-Verde Valley League teams after the Cowboys fell in the championship games of both tournaments.

eighth-grader Rachel Stockseth, right, scores ahead of the throw in a road win for Camp Verde Middle School at West Sedona School. Stockseth took all-Verde Valley League tournament team honors at shortstop but couldn’t lead the Cowboys to a repeat title. CVMS fell, 7-6, to Clarkdale-Jerome School in the league championship Saturday, April 25, at Oak Creek School in Cornville.

Despite the efforts of shortstop Rachel Stockseth and catcher Brittney Gunter, the Cowboys fell a run short of repeating as league softball champions, with Clarkdale-Jerome School taking advantage of nine CVMS fielding errors in a 7-6 loss.

“It’s tough to come back from that,” said Susan Holm, Cowboys assistant coach, following the six-inning loss Saturday, April 25, at the Oak Creek School in Cornville.  “Four of their runs were unearned, while we scored something every inning.

“We really had everything in our favor; we just didn’t hit the ball enough.”

The loss was a reversal of the Cowboys’ one-run victory Friday, April 24, in their opening game of the tournament over Pine-Strawberry Elementary School.

“I’m just proud of the girls’ character and poise.”

Head coach Nate Jackson’s baseball team could not provide as much of a contest in its league title game despite edging the Mingus Rams, 6-5, in the April 24 opener at Mayer Elementary School.

Top seed West Sedona School struck for four first-inning runs and three more in the third in a 10-1 victory that secured the Wildcats’ second straight league baseball crown.

Eighth-grade pitcher Dominic Bruno made the all-tournament team despite not having “his usual dominant performance,” Jackson said, in the nine-run loss to the Wildcats. “Our kids just got down on themselves, and it escalate[d] from there.”

Battise also joined Bruno, Gunter and Stockseth on the all-tournament teams after getting the win over Clarkdale when a shallow pop fly was dropped by the Mingus Rams catcher in fair territory.

“It rattled in and out of his glove,” Jackson said. “We had the bases loaded after we tied it up, 3-3, in the fifth inning.”

Basketball knows no off-season at the Middle Verde Recreation Center.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation has begun its spring basketball league. Travis Adcock, No. 1, of team Cottonwood Auto Sales, leaps to make a block, keeping team Legacy from scoring.
Some team names have changed since the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s men’s basketball league championship June 4, as Unit, led by Camp Verde High School head coach Dan Wall, fell to Pago’s, led by Sedona Red Rock High School assistant Michael Sells, 87-81.

But most league veterans, including coaches and ex-players from the four Verde Valley high schools ages 16 and older, came together again March 16 to keep their skills, or at least themselves, in shape for the next three months through the end of June.

Games are scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. through Wednesday, June 24. To help support the program, or for more information on registering for the Nation’s Summer Youth Program, call Smith at 567-1024.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, April 22, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

A season of momentum shifts has landed Clarkdale-Jerome School in the top tier of both baseball and softball teams competing for the Verde Valley League championship Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25.

Seventh-grader Gavin Martinez swings at a pitch in a win for Clarkdale-Jerome School. The Mingus Rams will be the second seed in the Verde Valley League baseball tournament in Mayer beginning Friday, April 24.
New volunteer head coaches Jeremy Peters and Joel Rosenberg will assume the third and second seeds, respectively, when they open the baseball and softball postseason tournaments. Baseball will crown its league champion at Mayer Elementary School, while softball will play for the title at the Oak Creek School in Cornville.

Mia Williams works a walk in a win for the Mingus Rams, who will be the third seed in the league softball tournament in Cornville.

For the full story and start times, please see the Wednesday, April 22, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.