Winning a high school team state championship is a daunting challenge, regardless of the sport. Some coaches go through an entire career without winning a single title.
And some win so many that they are able to build dynasties at their schools.
Sunnyside High School just won its 34th state championship in wrestling, with current coach Anthony Leon just collecting his fifth title since taking over the storied program in 2013. Four of those years that he didn’t win a title, his teams finished runner-up.
Before Leon took over, legendary coach Bobby DeBerry won 16 state titles over a span of 20 years at the Tucson high school to build the dynasty that continues today.
At Seton Catholic High School in Chandler, coach Karen Self has been on the bench for all 12 of that school’s girls’ basketball state championships. Under Self, Seton has been the dominant force among small-school competition for more than two decades, competing in 17 title games over a span of 26 years, and three times stringing together three-peats.
Self, who has a relatively small enrollment of around 600 each year from which to build her roster, just won her third state championship in the last four years.
And Sunnyside picked up its fourth consecutive state championship by scoring 198 team points to push past runner-up Liberty HS (166.5) and third-place Desert Vista HS (113.5).
This Sunnyside title was won in Division I, with the three previous in D-II. Liberty was last year’s champion in D-I, but the Peoria school was faced with a new challenge in that conference this year as the Blue Devils were moved up.
All three top finishers sent 13 state qualifiers to compete, with four defending state champions from Sunnyside. The Blue Devils won three individual titles: James Armstrong (113 lbs.), Sebastian Robles (160), and Rene Fragoso (182). All three finished the season undefeated (12-0).
In the girls’ 4A state basketball tournament, top-seeded Seton rolled through the first two rounds, winning by an average margin of 34 points, but had a scare in the semifinal game when No. 4 Mesquite HS kept the game close, right down to the final two minutes, before Seton pulled out a 39-35 win.
And the same kind of effort was required for Seton’s 70-62 victory over No. 2 Salpointe Catholic in the championship game, with the Tucson school closing the gap to four points more than once in the waning minutes.
Amanda Barcello tied with teammate Lexi McNabb with15 points to lead Seton to the semifinal win, and then the duo came back in the final game to lead the way again, with Barcello scoring 22 points and McNabb 21 points.
Seton finished the season 20-1. It took Hamilton High, which finished the season ranked No. 1 in the Arizona Republic’s Super 10, to keep the Sentinels from a perfect record. The Huskies claimed a 12-point win by holding Seton to 30 points in a March 3 game.
After all, building a dynasty doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Just really, really good.