Window Rock wrestler defies odds, places second at state

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

PRESCOTT, Ariz., February 14, 2013

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F or many, the 182-pound bracket at the Arizona Division IV state wrestling tournament had the most compelling outcome.

Like all the brackets, there were a handful of contenders, which included four sectional champions.

But in this division, a lot of people didn't see this coming as Window Rock senior Jeremy Jesus systematically knocked out some of the most seasoned wrestlers.

Going into the tournament, Jesus was unseeded and compiled a modest 9-7 record. But at the two-day event he chalked up three straight wins and finished second in his bracket.

"A lot of people don't know him," Window Rock coach Albert Bettis said when asked if his championship run was a shocker. "But I knew he was capable as long as he was healthy."

En route to the championship round, Jesus upset the No. 2 seed with a come-from-behind win. With roughly five seconds left he tied the match and just as time expired he was awarded a technical fall victory and advanced into the semifinals with a hard-fought, 11-8, win.

"I was looking at the clock and I heard coach (Albert) Bettis telling me to go," Jesus said. "He kept telling me to push it, but I knew I could take him down."

Admittedly, Jesus said it all happened too fast and he wasn't sure if he was going to get awarded the near-fall points.

"I didn't know, but when the ref told us to stop I looked at the scoreboard and I saw my points go up," he said.

In the next round, he faced another tough opponent who had 60 matches under his belt as Canyon State wrestler George Alanitz came into that match with an impressive 49-11 record.

"He was really strong, I couldn't move him or turn him on his back," Jesus said of Alanitz. "He dominated me the first period and he tried to outmuscle me in the second and third.

"I think that's what helped me because he got tired," he added. "I managed to turn him to his back with a reversal."

That last move earned him enough points as he advanced into the finals with a 12-10 win.

"He was a tough kid, but I had that drive to win because we've never had a state placer for Window Rock in at least four years," Jesus said, "so this was a really big deal."

In the championship match, Jesus faced Garrett Davis of St. John's, the tournament's top seed. Needless to say, he struggled and in the second period Davis pinned him and finished the season with a 60-1 record.

"He was quick and he took me down twice and that was it," Jesus said. "I managed to escape him once, but the rest of the time he kept me on the ground."

Throughout the tournament, Jesus said he was pretty nervous because of his lacking of experience on the mat. For much of the season he was nursing an injury he sustained at a meet in Round Valley, Ariz., in early December.

"I didn't think I was going to get this far, but I told everyone that I was going to place this year," he said. "I knew it was going to be tough, but I hung in there."

The Window Rock senior is hoping to inspire other wrestlers in the area, but in the eyes of his coach he has set the wheels in motion for next year's group.

"This is quite an accomplishment," Bettis said. "He certainly made a believer in all of us and I think we can build on this.

"We have some potential and hopefully we can get more kids to place next year," he added.

The Scouts had six other wrestlers qualify and as at team they finished in 15th place with 37 points.

Tuba City finished ten places back with 14 points and had 138-pounder Frankie Begaye in the medal rounds.

The Tuba City junior went 3-2 during the tournament and he beat Riley Raykovitz of St. Johns for fifth-place honors.

Earlier in the tournament Begaye edged Raykovitz by a 4-3 count, but in their last match he won his bout with a 10-2 decision.

"I knew he was going to come at me a lot harder," Begaye said of the St. John wrestler.

Begaye was within one match of reaching the finals, but the eventual champion, Ryan Shatto of Parker, sent him into the consolation medal rounds. Shatto beat him with a 10-3 win.

"I was thinking too far ahead and it got me off my game," Begaye said. "I was worrying too much about making the finals and I didn't use my wrestling strategies I used in my first two rounds."

And after he dropped that match he lost his next bout to Joshua Burt of Joseph City.

"After those losses he wanted to win that fifth place match so bad," Tuba City coach Brandon Williams said. "I am real proud of him. He's been pushing himself all year round."

In the 116-pound weight class, Parker sophomore Aaron Herder bounced back from a devastating second-round loss with four straight wins and placed third overall.

"You can't win all your matches, but I just lost fair and square to a superior wrestler," Herder said. "Even though I loss I wanted to keep wrestling and I chose to rise and not fall."

In his final match, he outlasted Theron Johns of Holbrook with a 6-1 count.

"It was a very good match," he said. "He was a very experienced wrestler. He didn't give my points very easily."

In Division III, Chinle heavyweight Joshua Smith went 5-1 in his bracket and finished third overall.

He scored three pins and won his final match with a 13-6 count over No. 4 seed Rueben Molina of Safford.

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