It looked like 2013 all over again at this year’s Flowing Wells Invitational wrestling tournament.
That was the year Sunnyside High School last won the tourney title, when it dominated the field in the prestigious high school tournament that wraps up the slate of major in-state events during the regular season and gives coaches one last look at where their teams stand before sectional competition and then the state tourney next month.
In 2013, the Blue Devils placed 10 wrestlers in the top six places in their individual events and two went on to win titles as the Tucson wrestling power scored 240 points to overwhelm its closest competitor, Mountain View High School, by 71 points.
This year Sunnyside won six individual titles to amass 299 points and again distance itself from the rest of the field. Runner-up Queen Creek High School finished with 167.5 points and third-place Walden Grove High collected 156.
While 2013 doesn’t seem that long ago, it’s a significant drought for a team that has ruled the sport for decades and won the Flowing Wells title 29 times. The Blue Devils strung together 14 state team championships before Chandler High School broke the stranglehold by taking the 2012 state title, the year the Blue Devils were trying to transition to a new head coach.
But the next year, Sunnyside regained its position at the pinnacle of the sport by winning all three major events of the regular season – the McClintock Invitational, Peoria Invitational Tournament of Champions, and the Flowing Wells Invite – and then scooped up the D-I state championship trophy.
This season witnessed much of the same as the Devils warmed up for the Flowing Wells last weekend by once again winning the 52nd annual Peoria Invitational, lapping the rest of the field of 35 teams. The Blue Devils piled up 290.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Liberty High, which scored 177. Sunnyside wrestlers captured three titles and five runner-up places.
All three title-winners at Peoria also won at Flowing Wells. James Brown won in the 108-pound weight class, Jesse Ybarra won at 115, and Roman Bravo-Young took the 134 title. They were joined by Manny Garcia, who won at 122, and Vincente Loaiza, who took the 128 title.
If there’s any one constant for Sunnyside, it’s Bravo-Young. The senior, who is 166-0 career, has now won a tourney title in each year of the Flowing Wells and will be going for his fourth straight state title next month. He was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Flowing Wells – for the fourth straight year.
It has been a frustrating four years for Sunnyside, which has had to settle for runner-up each year since 2014 at the state championships.
But, based on their tourney results, this should be the year the Devils move back up to the top of the viewing stand.