Pedro Cota of Sunnyside was hitting .474 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs through 24 games. He was 5-2 as a pitcher for the Blue Devils. DEAN KNUTH / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Before he took over the wrestling program at Cienega, Marty Niblo used to run the wrestling room at Yuma Kofa.

His first year on the job in Yuma, Niblo had the most talented wrestler he's ever seen. His name? Cain Velasquez.

Ring a bell? It should.

On Saturday night, Velasquez, now a star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship ranks, will fight the biggest match of his life when he takes on UFC champion Brock Lesnar in Anaheim, Calif.

"I only coached (Velasquez) for a year, but he's the best I've ever been around," Niblo said. "I've had five other state champions I've coached and he's been the absolute best. He had an incredible work ethic and passion for wrestling."

Velasquez, 6-0 in UFC fights, wrestled at Iowa Central Community College and Arizona State. He won a national championship at Iowa Central and was a two-time All-American at ASU.

He then turned to UFC and now has a chance to reach the pinnacle of his sport if he upsets Lesnar.

"If anyone can beat Brock Lesnar, it's Cain," Niblo said. "He's not going to quit. He just goes and goes. Brock is going to have to knock him out to stop him.

"I'll definitely be watching. I don't get nervous, just very excited."

If anyone knows the pain Velasquez can inflict, it's Niblo.

At a wrestling practice during Velasquez's senior year, Niblo jumped on his back with Velasquez on the ground. He tried to keep him down, but Velasquez quickly got to his feet. Niblo then challenged him to see who could take down the other faster.

"His eyes lit up and he came at me and threw me into the wall three times," Niblo said. "I started laughing. I had been coaching for 15 years and always held my own, even against the best, but not him. We made a rule right there when we wrestled, he couldn't throw me into the wall anymore."

Fight to the finish

During Wednesday's cross country meet between Catalina and Rincon/University some of Southern Arizona's top male runners raced off in a star-studded dual meet.

Catalina's Alejandro Montano, coming off a win at the Old Pueblo Invitational, held off teammates Omar Beltran and David Scott along with Rangers standouts Noah Kenyawani, Ochor Odol and Ryan Silva.

The top six runners were separated by just one minute with Montano winning the race in 15 minutes 46 seconds. Odol came in sixth at 16:46.

All six should easily qualify for the state meet.

Matthews surging

Rincon/University isn't having the football season it hoped for with a 3-5 record, but one highlight has been senior wide receiver Joseph Matthews.

Matthews, who is committed to New Mexico State, leads Southern Arizona with 729 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches.

He had one of his best games of his season last week against Salpointe Catholic with 10 catches for 210 yards and two scores.