QUEEN CREEK, Ariz.–Senior Denen Fernandez highlighted the state tournament for the Bulldog wrestling team over the weekend by winning his third individual state title in as many years.
Fernandez was 41-1 heading into the tournament. In his first round, he pinned Tucker Moore from Perry, just 31 seconds into the match. His second round ended in a tech fall, winning 17-2 over his opponent from Kofa. In the semifinal match, Fernandez beat Kamyn Stonebraker of Liberty by decision 7-3.
In the final match, Fernandez matched up with Zeke Guerrero from Cibola, who was 47-4 on the season heading into the final. The three two-minute periods ended in a 1-1 deadlock. Guerrero scored first in the second period, earning one point on an escape. Fernandez chose down in the third period and evened the score with an escape of his own.
In overtime rules, a one-minute period would be issued and the first wrestler to score points would win the match. Both wrestlers held on to keep the tie alive after the first overtime period.
Following the first minute, there would be two 30-second periods to decide the eventual winner. In the first of the 30-second periods, Fernandez chose the down position and 15 seconds in escaped for one point and then quickly scored another two points on a takedown to lead 4-1.
In the last 30-second overtime, Guerrero chose down and got a two-point reversal to cut the score to 4-3. In the remaining seconds, the Conquistador wrestler let Fernandez go for an escape and then made a desperate attempt for a takedown, but couldn’t do it.
“It feels amazing,” said Fernandez of a third-straight championship to Andy Morales on twitter. “I’ve been working at this for my all of my life pretty much. I tried to go for four, but didn’t make it my first year, so I just dedicated myself to the next three years.”
Fernandez was a runner-up his freshman year, but won the next three, and even helped his team to its first state championship title as a junior in DII last year.
Queen Creek also had two fourth-place finishers in the tournament. Denen’s younger brother, Seth Fernandez, who was a runner-up last year as a freshman in DII, finished 4th. He won his first two rounds by fall and tech fall and then had to win the consolation semifinal match to third-place match. Junior Justin Prigge, lost in his second-round match, but wrestled through three consolation matches to make it into the third-place match. He lost by pin to Matthew Stevenson of Liberty to take 4th place.
Denton Hardt won his first round match, but was eliminated in his final two matches. Dylan Abelseth and Logan Browne also wrestled for the Bulldogs in the tournament.
As a team, Queen Creek scored 64 points and placed 11th out of 35 teams in its first year in DI.