As the sport of wrestling at the high school level in Arizona continues to improve each year, attending a state wrestling tournament in this state is like sitting under the Barnum & Bailey Big Top and watching all the amazing performances in the rings below.
This season was a particularly good opportunity to get a look at what will soon be some of the best wrestlers in the college ranks.
In the center ring… Roman Bravo-Young, a junior from tradition-rich Sunnyside High School in Tucson, just completed his third straight season without a loss. His 47-0 record this year puts his career mark at 130-0, which puts him at No. 2 on the state’s all-time list for consecutive wins. He would need 49 wins in his senior season to eclipse the mark of 178 straight set by Waldo Gutierrez, who graduated from Morenci High in 2003.
Bravo-Young won last year’s title competing at 120 pounds, but moved up to win this year’s crown at 132. He breezed through his first two matches with pins and then posted 18-6 and 14-4 wins in his last two.
He also won the 132-pound title at the multi-state prestigious Flowing Wells Invitational four weeks ago, one of two champions from Sunnyside that won consecutive Flowing Wells titles. The other is David Salazar at 145, who also just picked up a state title at that weight.
Look for both of these local standouts to be continuing on to high-profile college careers, Bravo-Young has committed to compete for national wrestling power Penn State after he graduates next year.
And in this ring… the Groves twins. Together the junior brothers won 11 matches this season at McClintock High School in Tempe – and lost none. Marco, who finished this season 55-0, also went undefeated last year as a sophomore after losing four times during his freshman season. For brother Gator, 56-0 this season, this was his first unbeaten season, with three varsity losses on his resume.
Marco won the freshman title at 132 pounds, but has been able to successfully move up in weight, winning at 160 at state this year. Gator is the 145-pound champion.
And in Ring 3… the tournament’s biggest – and one of the best – competitors, Kolo Uasike from Skyline High in Mesa. After needing his 300-plus pounds of bulk to play on the defensive line for Skyline’s 9-2 football team, the senior was able to pare down to 285 to run up an undefeated wrestling season (27-0) and win his first state title – and become the school’s first individual champion in the sport.
And maybe Desert Edge High School should have its own ring, with the performances that school was getting from Josh Herrera and Brandon Courtney. Herrera won the 113 title by pinning all four of his opponents and Courtney finished up his second undefeated season to win his third state title, this one at 126 pounds.
Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School scored 226.5 points to win this year’s Division I team title. The Aztecs placed four individual title winners to bring home the team trophy for the first time in seven years: Cameron Upshur (120), Jacob Garcia (138), Vincent Dolce (152), and Brandon Konecny (160).
Runner-up Sunnyside collected 203 team points with individual wins by Jesse Ibarra (106), Manny Garcia (113), and Salazar (145).