wrestling team

Members of the Millennium High School wrestling team show off their trophy after capturing the first sectional championship title in program history. (Photo courtesy Michael Bostwick)

Millennium High School wrestling coach Michael Bostwick knows what it’s like to make history.

In early February, the team captured the wrestling program’s first sectional championship in the Division II Section III match.

The Tigers were propelled to the title courtesy of first-place finishes from Eathon Rider, Daniel Conchaz and Ashton Kaneao.

Reeling in the section championship, a goal set by the Tigers at the start of this season, can be credited to the hours of work spent in the off-season, when Bostwick and his team pledged to improve.

Last year, the Tigers sent 10 kids to state. Just four were able to win, per Bostwick, and that didn’t sit well with the first-year head coach.

What ensued has elevated Millennium’s wrestling program to state title contenders.

Bostwick and the Tigers achieved another feat of school history at the Division II state tournament on February 8 and February 9, when they sent a total of 10 athletes the event.

Rider was the runner-up in the 106-pound class, and became the first Millennium wrestler in program history to finish as a finalist.

Courtney Cordoza, one of the two female wrestlers representing Millennium, also finished as a runner-up in the 145-pound weight class. Cordoza became one of the first female finalists in Arizona girls’ wrestling history.

Cordoza and Abby Apodaca, who competed in the 125-pound class, partook in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s inaugural girls’ state tournament.

Because the Tigers upped the ante last offseason, they were able to roll into the title round with a newfound shot of confidence.

“There were a lot of us who were not happy with the way last season ended, so as soon as it ended, a lot of kids were going to clubs and we put in a lot of offseason work,” Bostwick said. “That’s really where it started.

“It was the growth we had from one calendar year. That’s what really caused us to win (this year). If we sat home and did what we could have done, we could have fallen through. It was a lot of practicing and just pushing ourselves to make sure we could push through at the end.”

In just his second season at the helm of the Tigers wrestling team, Bostwick didn’t mince words when he laid out his game plan for the state tournament.

“We’re looking to make history.”

Millennium hasn’t had an individual state champion in wrestling. Several Tigers were in prime position to potentially end the drought this year at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott.

Rider was the top-ranked wrestler in his 106-pound class. Conchaz, in the 126-pound weight class, was the two-seed, and Kaneao was a four-seed in the 132-pound group.

“When you get to that championship round, it’s another day at the office,” Bostwick said. “When you get to that point, (most athletes) are not used to it. For many of our kids, they’re like, ‘We’ve done this before. It’s just another day.’”

The Tigers experienced a rollercoaster of a regular season that saw them struggle to field a full lineup all year. Bostwick was often forced to shuffle together a lineup, due mostly to kids on the roster being sick throughout the year.

“Our first duel, I think we took four kids,” he said, adding that going into sectionals at full-strength was significant in winning the tournament.

Bostwick, who has coached wrestling for more than two decades, arrived at Millennium after a four-year stint with Phoenix’s Carl Hayden Community High School, blown away with the kind of talent he had in the program.

They were talented, athletic kids, but they weren’t wrestlers yet. That was Bostwick’s job.

“The kids understood the sport of wrestling, but many of them never really experienced high-level competition. We understood Millennium had great athletes, and we wanted to take the level of those great athletes and make them become great wrestlers. So, really, it was putting in all that time.”

Wrestling has been a fixture in Bostwick’s life dating back to his childhood, when he competed in high school before joining the Air Force. He wrestled and coached while in the military at 18 years old, but his playing career came to a halt when he got injured soon after.

His first head coaching gig came 6 miles from his current post at Millennium. Bostwick spent six years with the Vipers, and was the head coach when Josh Kramer became the first state champion in Verrado history in 2013.

Now, Bostwick and the Tigers are starting to achieve school history feats at an impressive pace.

“I’m very proud to help coach this team that won the first sectional championship in Millennium history. It was great to be a part of that, and hopefully we can set some more history.”

During the offseason, the Tigers trained with Bostwick’s Will 2 Win Wrestling Club held at Millennium. It’s a free program open to the public for boys and girls ages 7 to 18.

The Will 2 Win Wrestling Club is eyeing to kick off its offseason program Tuesday, February 19, in the Millennium wrestling room. The program will be held from every Tuesday and Thursday. For more information, contact Bostwick at mbostwick@aguafria.org.