When Mountain View's new wrestling coach, P.J. Ponce, arrived in Marana earlier this year, he set out to turn an already relevant program on its head.
The 23rd annual Mountain View Duals wrestling tournament, which concluded on Wednesday evening at Mountain View, served as a prime example of the drastic improvements Ponce is already making.
Ponce's Mountain Lions won the team portion of the event - an aspect of the tournament that didn't even exist before his arrival - by defeating Cienega in the championship.
Sabino beat Amphitheater in the third-place match, and St. Johns beat Safford for fifth.
Mountain View went undefeated (8-0) en route to the title, a rather impressive feat considering the improvement in quality and quantity of teams this year.
In past editions, roughly 10 teams were entered, most coming from the Tucson area. Last year, there were just nine. This season, 16 teams flocked from all over the state, and even a team from El Paso was in attendance. Ponce said he actually had to deny five additional teams - one from Fresno, Calif. - because the tournament already had been capped.
"The first thing we wanted to do was to bring in quality teams and improve the tournament from previous years," said Ponce, who spent the last seven years building Empire's program and coached at San Manuel for 11 years before that. "Being a wrestling coach for 18 years, there's a lot of connections there. We reached out to a lot of coaches, and we were able to pull teams from all over."
St. Johns and Show Low, each past 1A/2A team state championship teams, came down from the White Mountains. Burgess, the team from El Paso, is coached by one of Ponce's old college teammates.
Of the 16 teams present, seven had won state championships - six within the last decade.
To accommodate the larger turnout, Ponce completely re-tooled the event, right down to new, portable electronic scoreboards and an advanced computer scoring system. Not to discredit Mountain View's previous coach, Ron Porter, but he just wasn't quite so high tech.
"This thing has been run very well," Mountain View 113-pounder Bailey Janis said. "There are plenty of officials, better equipment and stronger teams.
"It's just an all-around good experience."
Janis missed the Mountain View Duals last season, held out after receiving a D in one of his classes, and made the most of his return. The junior went 8-0, winning the 113-pound individual title and improving his record to a perfect 24-0 on the season.
To the delight of Janis and his teammates, the improvements made to the tournament reflect what Ponce has done with the team.
"We had a bunch of individuals on the team at first," Janis said. "It was a lot of 'me, me, me.'"
Janis said Ponce has turned the team around by imposing "discipline."
"Now, we're pulling together," Ponce said. "Now, we're starting to look like a team."