PRESCOTT VALLEY — When it comes to getting a medal at the state wrestling tournament, a good start is vital.

For Casa Grande Union’s Dayton Lewis that’s exactly what happened, and now the senior is two wins shy of becoming a state champion.

“It’s paramount. It sets the mode and the motion going into the second round,” Casa Grande coach Carlos Hernandez said of that important first-round win. “The confidence is built. You have that first match out of the way at state, and that just builds character and confidence.”

The 138-pounder Lewis pinned Peoria’s Sergio Martinez Chavez in 3:19 and then won a 7-2 decision over Chino Valley’s Cody Jasper to improve to 30-5 this year. Lewis will face Tempe’s Jesus Rivera (44-1) on Saturday morning.

Lewis is one of 15 Pinal County wrestlers to advance to the semifinals of the Division III and IV state wrestling tournament at Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, with another 16 wrestlers still alive for medals.

“Dayton is the shining star and Briana (Quiroz) on the other side," Hernandez said. "She’s coming back (Saturday), and she will look to medal.”

Quiroz lost a 12-3 major decision to Peoria Centennial’s Adrianna Llyod in her first-round match but advanced after Gila Ridge’s entrant had to withdraw because of injury with four minutes left. She will face Winslow’s Riley Davila Saturday morning. If Quiroz wins that match she will make history, becoming the first girl in school history to medal at state.

“We are excited, but we are not putting too much pressure on her,” Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, her brother Damian is still alive to medal. Damian lost a first-round match to Flagstaff Coconino’s Cooper French in a 9-1 major decision but advanced after Combs’ Zavier Fernandez had to forfeit.

“There was some tight matches in that first round that we should’ve won,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully they can come back and we can get some medals as well.”

While the Cougars have enjoyed success, all eyes have been on Santa Cruz, which is looking to repeat as Division IV state champion.

The Dust Devils entered the tournament with 12 wrestlers and currently sit in second place in the team standings with 77.5 points — two points shy of first-place Morenci with 79.5 points.

“They had some pretty good seeds, and they came in, wrestled hard and we got some pretty tough seeds and lost a few of them,” Santa Cruz coach Ray Belloc said of Morenci.

Santa Cruz advanced seven wrestlers to the semifinals, led by Davian Guanajuato, who improved to 41-0 with his two wins, and have two others still alive and battling for medals.

Meanwhile, Morenci has seven wrestlers in the semifinals and four more still alive.

“We have some tough ones (Saturday) morning and hopefully we can pull them out,” Belloc said. “It’s going to be right there — back and forth. It’s going to be a fight. We just have to work hard and earn it.”

Poston Butte’s Shane Landis-Ku came into the state meet determined to win a medal. After Friday, he’s still alive to reach that goal despite dropping his first round 120-pound match.

Landis Ku dropped a 10-4 decision to Cottonwood Mingus’ Keene Todacheene but rebounded for a 10-3 decision win over Michael Schmidt of Waddell Canyon View. He will need to win two matches Saturday morning if he’s going to medal.

“I think there was a couple of matches that we let get away,” Poston Butte coach Traston Yates said. “You have to wrestle perfect at the state tournament. You give guys a little window, and they sneak out and they end up beating you. It’s a lesson that these guys have to learn. You get a lead, you have to be stingy with points. You have to refuse to give up points.”

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