Rio Rico's Mark Lopez, right, works out with teammate Erik Jeong. Lopez is 22-0 this season.


Rio Rico 145-pound senior Mark Lopez has won back-to-back state championships and several other tournaments, but he's never taken a title at the Flowing Wells Invitational.

This weekend is his last chance.

"It's bigger than the state tournament," said Brad Beach, Rio Rico's wrestling coach. "You get teams from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, etc., coming in. Teams from out of state don't travel just for any tournament."

Beach also said there could be two or three state champions in each bracket, which shows how steep the competition is and why Lopez has finished third in it the last two years. It's also why two of Lopez's relatives - his brother and uncle - never won there.

The Star recently sat down with Lopez, who is 22-0 this year, to chat about his season so far and to see how he feels heading into one of his biggest meets of the year.

What would taking home a title from Flowing Wells mean to you?

A: "It would mean a lot to me. No one in my family has ever won the event. I'd like nothing more than to be the first in my last year. It's more of a personal goal."

What has been the high point of your senior season?

A: "The Southwest Showdown at (Grand Canyon University). It was just a fun tournament to go to. All about wrestling. You get the atmosphere of everybody competing and everybody wants to win, but it was just a lot of fun. Everybody was laughing, having a good time. Going 8-0 wasn't bad either."

How have you handled your success?

A: "I try to stay down to earth. I have plenty of confidence in myself but sometimes I need to bring it back down and focus and make sure everything is perfect. It's a mental thing. I get hard on myself, like flipping a switch in my mind. I know when to calm things down."

What kind of style do you bring to the mat?

A: "I'm more of a technical wrestler. I'm constantly thinking. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. It's a big part of my game. I never stop looking for possible opportunities as they come available."

If you go

• What: 47th Flowing Wells Invitational

• Today: First and second rounds, 10:30 a.m.; quarterfinals, 7:00 p.m.

• Saturday: Semifinals, 10 a.m.; finals, 6 p.m.