PJ Ponce won individual wrestling championships in 1987 and 1988 for San Manuel and he coached Mountain View to a team title in 2017 along with three straight runner-up finishes in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Our own Javier Morales interviewed Ponce in 1988 after the state champion traveled to Japan and defeated six wrestlers including Japan’s national champion:
“I have wrestled most of the wrestlers in (Class) AAA in the freestyle tournaments in the summer,” Ponce told Javier in a story published in the Arizona Daily Star on Feb. 9, 1988. “And I have beaten most of them, but I am basically unknown.”
No longer “unknown,” Ponce went on to earn two All-American nods in college at the University of Mary. He went on to coach at Empire before moving over to Mountain View. He became one of 20 coaches in the history of Arizona to reach 400 career wins this year.
Mountain View is expected to hire from within with governing board approval. Former state champion Marcus Castillo is an assistant with the Mountain Lions and is expected to continue in that role.
Sisters Lillian Gradillas (24-1) and Ysela Gradillas (22-1) will be representing Mountain View at the state playoffs this week. Lillian, a sophomore is competing in the 145-pound division and Ysela, a senior, is in the 152 weight class. The sisters are heading to state as section champions.
LINK: GIRLS STATE BRACKETS
LINK: BOYS STATE BRACKETS
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at email@example.com