Ironwood Ridge's wrestlers have been waiting years to make one proclamation, and now they've got the hardware to back it up.
The Nighthawks won the 46th Flowing Wells Invitational for the first time on Saturday evening, prompting junior Matt Filbert to tell the world:
"This solidifies our position as the best team in Arizona."
Filbert (at 152 pounds) was one of two Nighthawks to also take home individual titles at Flowing Wells High School; the other was senior Trevor Willson (at 126).
Willson, who returned to the mat this weekend despite having surgery on a torn meniscus four weeks ago, called Ironwood Ridge's winning the event "a huge statement." The Nighthawks scored 175.5 points to beat out Yuma Cibola (165.5) and Sunnyside (148).
"It's better than (winning) state," Willson said. "This is way harder than state."
Some consider it harder because it requires beating top competitors from different divisions, unlike state, where you face wrestlers from only your own division.
This year's edition boasted 38 teams, most from Arizona but also some from Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
"This being one of the biggest tournaments you can go to, it makes me really happy to win," said Pueblo's Alvaro Gallego, who won at 106 pounds and improved to 34-0 on the year.
Six of the 14 weight classes were won by wrestlers from Southern Arizona.
Amphitheater heavyweight Austin Andrade won in his senior year, pinning Joseph Patrick from Chandler Hamilton in 39 seconds. It was easily the shortest match of the night.
Amphi coach Sam Portillo said Andrade became the first Amphi wrestler to win a title at the Flowing Wells since Jon Volpe in 1986.
"That wasn't really on my mind when I was wrestling," said Andrade. "But it's a good feeling to bring something back to Amphi, something that hasn't been there in a while."
Sunnyside's Andres Piedra (138 pounds) and Cedric Gonzalez (220) won individual titles, but the Blue Devils failed to defend their Flowing Wells title from last year.
Gonzalez's win was perhaps the most impressive. After winning a Flowing Wells title and a state title at 171 pounds last season, he is 19-0 at 220 pounds this year. Surprisingly, the senior said the 50-pound adjustment hasn't been too drastic.
"Usually, I'm more of a defensive wrestler but since these guys don't attack as much as the smaller weight classes, I've had to attack more and use my offense a little bit more," Gonzalez said.
As for Ironwood Ridge's claim as the new best team in the state, Gonzalez said the verdict is still out.
"They haven't been able to beat us yet," Gonzalez said, referring to Sunnyside's dominance in duals between the teams.
Ironwood Ridge coach Tim Berrier chose his words carefully regarding the win.
"We were the top team in Arizona today and yesterday," he said. "I'd like to get where we're the team to beat every year, but is that realistic? I don't know. Maybe."