After 4 title runners-up, Sunnyside wrestling back on top


The bad news for Arizona’s Div. I high school wrestling programs: Sunnyside High School is back on top of the sport.

The good news: Roman Bravo-Young graduates this year.

Sunnyside, the tradition-rich Tucson wrestling power that now has 31 state titles on its resume, just walked away with the 2018 championship.  The Blue Devils piled up 193 points to run away from the field and finish well ahead of runner-up Cibola High, which totaled 164.  That was a step up for Cibola, which finished in third last year.

The tradition at Sunnyside goes back a long way.  Prior to their last title in 2013, the Blue Devils won 16 state titles over a span of 20 years under legendary coach Bobby DeBerry,  DeBerry unexpectedly resigned following the 2011-12 season after winning 14 straight state titles.

After winning its last state title in 2013, the Blue Devils endured four straight years of runner-up finishes in the state tournament.  This year, they took out that frustration by taking a commanding position throughout the regular season, sweeping both the Peoria Invitational and Flowing Wells Invite, the state’s top tournaments that serve to wrap up the regular-season schedule.

And leading the way all season long, just as he has for the last four years, was Bravo-Young.  The senior dominated the 120-pound division earlier in his career, switching to 132 the last two years. and has run up a 182-0 prep career record before heading off to Penn State next year.  He will leave Sunnyside as the state’s record-holder for wins without a loss.

Sunnyside used four individual first-place finishes to help fuel the team win at this year’s state tourney.  In addition to Bravo-Young’s win at 132, the Blue Devils also picked up individual titles from Jesse Ybarra (113), Juan Manuel Garcia (120), and Vincente Loaiza (126).

To some extent, Bravo-Young had to share the spotlight during each season’s state tournament.  Gator Groves, who wrestles for Chandler High at 145 pounds, also just pocketed his fourth consecutive state championship.

Bobby Groves, who goes by “Gator,” and his brother, Marco, transferred in to Chandler High from Tempe’s McClintock High School, a Div. II program, this year.  Marco, who competes in the 160 weight class, was on a 145-match winning streak before losing at the Blackford Duals at Arizona State earlier this season.

Queen Creek High School also shook the monkey off its back, rebounding from last year’s runner-up finish in Div. II to win this year’s team title.  The Bulldogs rolled past runner-up Liberty High School, 181 to 149.5, making sure they put enough distance between them and the rest of the field to assure the title this time.  Last year, they lost to Mountain View High School (Marana) by just 6 1/2 points.

The Bulldogs picked up individual titles from Xavier Rico (120), Denen Fernandez (145), and Nikolas Manuel (160).