Peoria Invite title boosts Desert Vista’s wrestling status

A tournament title is always a significant accomplishment for any high school wrestling program – especially when that event is the Peoria Invitational, which is an established competition that draws some of the best teams in the state.

But when Desert Vista High School won this year’s invitational, it had to be particularly sweet for head coach, David Gonzalez.  The Thunder, from Phoenix, had to beat Tucson’s Sunnyside High School, for many years one of the best wrestling programs in Arizona, to accomplish the invitational win.

And Gonzalez used to be an assistant coach at Sunnyside.

Three Arizona high schools finished in the top five this year.  Desert Vista had 205.5 points and Sunnyside was just off the mark with 198, while Hamilton High School in Chandler came in fifth with 141.

Desert Vista placed two champions, Jimi Dixie in the 170-pound classification and Alex Bambic at 220.  Bambic, a junior, is one of three state champions that returned this year for The Thunder, together with seniors Robbie Mathers at 125 and Kendall Love at 135.

This year is one of transition for Sunnyside, after losing their long-time head coach, Bobby DeBerry, following last season.  He was in charge of the program, arguably the best in the history of Arizona high school wrestling, for 16 years.

But the Tucson school has a long tradition of wrestling success, winning 29 state titles that date back into the ’70s.

Under DeBerry, the Blue Devils have been riding a streak of 14 straight state titles, but will obviously be challenged by Desert Vista in their quest to extend the run under the new head coach, Anthony Leon.

But this year the Sunnyside program will also be without two other DeBerrys, brothers Kyle and Kory who each won four state titles before moving on to compete for Arizona State University.  The anchor this year will be Cedric Gonzalez, the defending state champion at 171.

Gonzalez decisioned his California opponent, 5-1, to handily win the 220-pound title at the Peoria Invitational.

One of the most exciting – and surprising – results came in the competition at 120 pounds, where DaWayne Robertson from Mesa’s Westwood High School snatched the title from Trey Andrews, a three-time state champion from Safford High School.

That win earned him the award for Outstanding Wrestler in the tournament, which he shared with Brennan Smith (160) from Sunrise Mountain High School  in Peoria and Bronson Ashjian (132) from Cimarron Memorial High in Las Vegas.

Sunnyside will stay at home this weekend to take part in the prestigious Flowing Wells Invitational.  The field of 36 teams includes many of the best in the state, including the top five finishers from last year’s Division I state tournament.

The Blue Devils won this tournament last year, dominating the field in Coach DeBerry’s final season.  But Oro Valley’s Ironwood Ridge High School, the defending state champions in Division II and a distant runner-up in last year, is back again this year.