Sunnyside High School just completed this season’s hat trick. OK, that’s generally thought of as a hockey term and we’re talking wrestling here.
But regardless of how you describe the Tucson school’s third straight tournament win on the year, this weekend’s claim to the team championship at the Flowing Wells Wrestling Invitational means just one thing: the Blue Devils are back in control of prep wrestling in the state of Arizona.
Sunnyside didn’t win the prestigious Flowing Wells tourney last year, finishing runner-up to Desert Vista High School. They also didn’t win a state title, but had to settle for a fourth-place team finish – the first time in 30 years they finished out of the top three spots. The year was a season of transition with a new head coach and the storied program hit a bump in the road as it tried to make the adjustment.
But this year it has been a smooth ride through the three key tournaments of the year, as Sunnyside reinforced the contention that it belonged back at the pinnacle of the sport.
In mid-December, the Blue Devils announced their return by exacting revenge on Chandler High School, which was the team that last year broke Sunnyside’s 14-year reign as state champion and went on to claim the state title that was normally set aside for the Blue Devils. Sunnyside rolled through the field of 31 teams in the McClintock Wrestling Invitational to finish 11.5 points ahead of their Division I foe and win the tourney title.
Three weeks later, Sunnyside was even more like its dominant old self. The Blue Devils blew past the field of 35 top prep wrestling teams from several states to win the Peoria Wrestling Invitational Tournament of Champions going away. Sunnyside posted 264 points, well ahead of Gila Ridge High School from Yuma, which tied with a Nevada team for second place with 145.5 points.
And now Sunnyside has added another team title in the Flowing Wells by scoring 240 points to overwhelm its closest competitor, Mountain View High School in Mesa (169 points), and far outdistance the field of 37 teams in the double-elimination tournament that just completed its 47th year.
Sunnyside used a deep roster to amass its points, as 10 of the school’s wrestlers finished in the top six places in their individual events. Two won titles: Sergio Miranda at 120 pounds and Gabriel Gonzales at 195.
Ironwood High School from Tucson was last year’s Flowing Wells champion, but finished fifth this year. However, it was also the only school entered that had a repeat champion. Matt Filbert beat Dalton Moran from Chandler High, 5-2, in the 152-pound weight class.
Chandler was without its three-time state champion, Dalton Brady, who passed on this event to provide time for an ailing back to heal up, but nonetheless took a fifth-place team finish and placed two champions: Tristan Moran at 126 and Drew Lattner at 220.
Corona del Sol High School in Tempe also placed two in the winner’s circle: Glenn Farina at 132 and Ethan Tursini at 160.
The Flowing Wells Invite traditionally wraps up the slate of major events during the regular season, giving coaches one last look at where their programs are before sectional competition and then the state tournament next month.
It’s not hard to tell which will be the team to beat at state this year. Sunnyside is back from its short hiatus.