Sunnyside HS, Camp Verde dominate wrestling tourneys

High school wrestling tournaments dotted the Arizona landscape this weekend, but despite the proliferation of events there was a new one starting up with big plans for the future.

Three high schools in the Prescott area got together to create the inaugural Mile High Challenge, held at Tim’s Toyota Center.  Organizers hope to turn the tourney, promoted as the Battle for the Belt,  into a major event on the prep wrestling circuit and use it as a preview of sorts for the state tournament, which is also held next month at the stadium-like venue in Prescott Valley.

Fourteen teams showed up for the christening of the new event, with Camp Verde High School earning the honor of being the tournament’s first champion.  The Cowboys piled up 319 points to easily outdistance the field.  Marcos de Niza High School came up the hill from Tempe to claim second place with 262 points and Marana’s Mountain View High School traveled all the way from the Tucson area to pick up a third-place award by posting 255 points.

Prescott High School, one of the three host teams and organizers of the event, finished just off the pace to finish in fourth place with 248 points.  The other two host teams were Chino Valley High School, which finished in eighth place with 140 points, and Bradshaw Mountain High School, which put up 89 points for an 11th-place finish.

Prescott High was the only one of the three teams that brought home first-place medals, as Daniel Hernandez won in the 170-pound competition and David Rupp claimed the heavyweight crown.

Meanwhile, down in the Phoenix Valley the more-established Peoria Invitational Tournament of Champions was being held at Peoria High School.  And the long-established Sunnyside High School wrestling program also finished well ahead of the field of 35 top prep wrestling teams from several states to get back into the driver’s seat of that prestigious event.

Last year, Tucson’s Sunnyside finished runner-up to Desert Vista High at the Peoria Invite.  It was a year of transition for Sunnyside, which was in the first year with a new head coach after the resignation of Bobby DeBerry, who had led the school for 16 years and accumulated 14 straight state titles.

The Blue Devils finished in fourth place at last year’s state tournament, the first time in 30 years they finished out of the top three spots.  This year, Anthony Leon has brought Sunnyside back to the pinnacle of the sport.  Three weeks ago the Blue Devils won the McClintock Wrestling Invitational and this weekend ran away from the Peoria field by posting 264 points – a long way ahead of Gila Ridge High School from Yuma and Cimarron Memorial High from Las Vegas, the teams that tied for second place with 145.5 points apiece.

Sunnyside piled up its points with six individual first-place finishes:  Juaquin Olivas (113 pounds), Sergio Miranda (120), William Olivas (126), Rual Moraga (138), Aaron Steinbach (145), and Gabriel Gonzalez (195).

The other winners from Arizona included a couple of Westview High School competitors, Richard Miranda III at 152 and Kordell Provchy at 160.  Also, Trey Ronayne (170) from Basha High in Chandler and Bradley Burston (220) from Cesar Chavez High in Laveen.

Two Arizona wrestlers, Sunnyside’s Moraga and Basha’s Ronayne, were included in the three-way tie for the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award.