WILLCOX — A trio of returning stars could help the Willcox wrestling program climb even higher than last year’s fifth-place finish in the Division IV state tournament by Feb. 14.

Senior Caiden Hall returns as a state runner-up at 195 pounds, and junior Ote Allsup returns as a state runner-up at 152 pounds. Plus, senior Kelby Flowers returns as a third-place finisher at 138 pounds.

“All three of our top can finish higher on the podium this year,” head coach Patrick Macumber said. “We have a good group that comes in. We lost a couple of definite point scorers from last year, however.”

Don’t sleep on senior Miguel Vasquez, who pulled out a fourth-place finish last year at state after losing his first-round match at 182 pounds.

The Cowboys’ fifth-place team finish was a big jump from the 14th position they notched the year before. Depth of talent may help keep them higher in the ranks this year.

“We’re excited about Christian Pando as a freshman after a really good season in middle school last year, and he’s looking really tough this year,” the coach said. “Luis Cruz at 106 will be a definite asset because sometimes that’s a hard weight class to fill. We have a number of new kids, including a pair of female wrestlers, as that is the fastest-growing sport out there.”

The Cowboys open the season as the host of a four-way meet on Tuesday with visits from Pima, Thatcher and Tombstone.

“We look to have a full lineup this year, which is what you hope for in a small school setting,” Macumber said.

They’ll also be pointing toward a Dec. 11 meet in Thatcher that will include the Morenci Wildcats.

“Morenci is always the top of our conference, so if we can run with them, we’ll be in good company,” the coach said.

Macumber will be assisted by RK Rockhill, Jace Dezonia and former head coach Neil Osterman. They hope to have the team peaking by the Feb. 8 sectional, which the Cowboys will again host.

“The state really likes us running it,” the coach said. “We get a big gate, there are a lot of wrestling fans here in southern Arizona, we are centrally located, and we’ve run so many tournaments that we usually do it without a hiccup.”

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