Despite taking on top competition early on in the season and not at full strength, Camp Verde High School’s wrestling team took second place at the 16-team Verde Duals, which it hosted on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2.
The Cowboys had three champions and three third-place finishes from a group that includes just three seniors and zero juniors.
“[The tournament] actually went better than I expected, it turns out,” Camp Verde head coach Tracy Tudor said. “I knew we were kind of outgunned .... We’re not quite 100 percent yet; we will be after January for sure. It was pretty tough and we ended up second place, so we did pretty well.”
High-caliber teams like Division II Ironwood Ridge High School and Verrado High School, Division III Coconino High School and Mingus Union High School, and Division IV foe Casteel High School all participated. Ironwood Ridge was the team champion.
Sophomore 132-pounder Korben Uhler went 10-0 on his way to a championship, as did sophomore Keene Todacheene  and freshman Conrad Brady . Brady also took home the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament award for his weight class.
Finishing in third place, with nine wins and one loss, were senior Skyler Pike , sophomore Benji Perez  and junior Tristian Stanfield . Both Pike and Stanfield were Division IV state champions a year ago.
“I just didn’t think we stacked up well, the way we were wrestling, the way we started out wrestling,” Tudor said. “We’re not wrestling well although we were winning. We seemed to improve through the tournament. And we had a couple hiccups in the finals but we finished strong.”
Junior transfer Anthony Tinghitella , who came to Camp Verde from Ironwood Ridge, must sit out until the turn of the year, but will be a key addition for the chase toward a state title. However the team did lose sophomore 113-pounder Ismael Gonzales to a broken humerus early in the individuals tournament on Dec. 2.
Coming together as a unit has been the biggest point of improvement so far for the Cowboys, who lost a number of veteran grapplers from graduation a year ago.
“The best thing that is happening is that we’re learning a lot about each other and we’re coming together,” Tudor said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and they’re not experienced so they make little mistakes here and there. So I’m seeing a lot of improvement in little areas that will help us to become a championship team one day. Not sure when that will be, we’re getting better, we’re getting stronger.”
The experienced group knows the discipline necessary to be successful, watching what they eat and drink as well as watching its future opponents wrestle. Those young ones are still figuring that out.
“My inexperienced guys kind of rely on coaches to tell them everything,” Tudor said. “They’re kids. It’s a kind of development, training a kid to become a young man, that’s teaching them responsibility and how to discern a lot of these things themselves, as individuals, for the good of the team.”
|Verde Duals Results|
106 Soph. Keene Todacheene 10-0 Champion