Casteel vs. Liberty: Clash of Wrestling Titans

Photo by Arianna Grainey

By Jason P. Skoda

Bob Callison sat in a chair, just a few feet from the action of the junior varsity match, remembering some of the more memorable dual meets during his tenure at four different programs in his hall of fame career.

There was a time when his Mountain View Toros pinned out over the last four matches to beat Thunderbird in its heyday; another big one was when Mountain View beat a stacked Ironwood Ridge lineup that was ignited by a Paden Mason upset win over Danny Vega.

He was reminiscing because his new endeavor at Casteel, where the program is in the fifth year, had a chance to have a similar experience, something that could catapult the Colts to the next level as the state tournament is less than a month away.

Recently standing in front of the Colts was Liberty, the Westside powerhouse that is looking to win its third straight Division I title.

“Wrestling needs something like this,” Callison said. “We need something like this. These kids had their season taken, delayed a couple of times, and had it canceled a month ago. They’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity in front of them. We’ll know a lot more about us before the night is over.”

Casteel, along with the rest of the state, found out just how good it can be as the Colts beat Liberty 30-29 in a very good dual meet that saw them get the win because Casteel won the bonus war. Liberty won 8 of the 14 matches, but the Colts got four pins to win the intense, back-and-forth meeting that came down to the heavyweight match.

It was just like those good old days Callison was reflecting on before the match. 

Even in the program’s first dual meet loss to an Arizona team since 2018, Liberty coach Eric Brenton saw the upside of the big picture.

“This was a great night; yes, it would have been better if we had won, but wrestling needs matches like this,” Brenton said. “We had full lineups, intense matches, some 50-50 matches where every point mattered and they won the bonus war.

“I’m proud of our kids. We wrestled hard and competed. It’s all I can ask for.”

Liberty was able to win most of the matches with a lineup filled with state placers as state champion Tyler Sauter (152) led the way along with wins from Cilus Cabral (106), Tim Murabito (113), Michael Trujilio (120), Carson Coy (138), Marcus Murabito (170), Anthony Ruiz (182) and heavyweight Kylan Barrett.

“We can go back to the (wrestling) room and know we have some work to do,” said Sauter, who had a major decision in the meet. “They beat us by getting pins when they needed to and we didn’t get some of the big wins. I needed to get a pin and didn’t. We’ll get better.”

The Colts, who should get stronger before state when state runner-up Jack Rustad returns from knee surgery at 113, got decisions from 126-pounder Will Effinger, who won a close match over state placer Roman Provenzano, AJ Valle (195) and pins from Sergio Ramos (132), Mikey Ramos (145), Jake Done (160), and Raychon Cardona (220).

Effinger pulled out a close one and gave the Colts their first win in the dual after Liberty won the first three matches.

“I wrestled him before, in like seventh grade, and he pinned me,” Effinger said. “That was a long time ago. I knew we had to get a win and I just kept the pressure on. I felt him break in the third period. After that, I knew I was going to win.”

The dual was anything but decided at that point but it became a possibility when the Colts picked up the four pins and then heavyweight Carson Gazeley did his part in a defeat. He kept the match close in order to give the Colts the win by a single team point.

“The boys worked hard and everyone did their part,” Callison said. “We had some heartbreakers, but for the most part they all wrestled hard and did what we asked of them.”

The night as a whole was a rare one as both teams supplied almost a full roster at all levels – freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity – plus a girl’s dual meet, that was punctuated by a comeback win by Liberty’s nationally ranked Sara Schmoker, that has six matches.

It’s what wrestling is at its best – two power programs getting after it under a spotlight, testing their will and taking on all challengers.

One of those types of nights that Callison can look back on one day; just like he did before the Colts went out and pulled off the upset.

“When a team comes together like that and believes in each other; invested in all of their teammates’ matches that’s when it gets emotional and exciting,” Callison said. “That’s what everyone wants to see from their kids.”