Wrestling update from Amphi with Sabino, Catalina, Sunnyside and Tucsonby Andy Morales on Jan. 09, 2013, under Sports
The sectional wrestling tournaments are less than three weeks away (February 2) but there is still plenty of action between then and now.
One of the biggest meets of the season took place Wednesday at Amphitheater with Sabino, Sunnyside, Tucson and Catalina visiting the Panthers Den.
Sunnyside coach Anthony Leon is in his second year after Bobby DeBerry left the program with 15 state championships to his name from 1996 to 2011. In all, the Blue Devils have won 29 titles in the past 33 years and success like that does not come by accident.
Sunnyside’s feeder system is legendary. From elementary through middle school, the wrestling culture is developed and nurtured as a way of life and I witnessed it first-hand as a young boy at Los Ranchitos where wrestlers from the high school used to come and show us a few moves during PE class.
The only other program I can compare it to in the area would be the baseball factory at Canyon del Oro that runs from toddlers through high school and the Dorados have a high number of professional baseball players to show for it.
Like CDO, Sunnyside has produced many of the big names in wrestling college and national teams and one of those young men is current Amphi head coach Sam Portillo. After six years, Portillo decided to stay at Amphi rather than replace the legendary DeBerry and he did it for all the right reasons.
Amphi does not enjoy a wrestling feeding system like Sunnyside but they do have lots of young boys (and girls) who need direction and they see Portillo as a coach who can take them from a novice to a champion in four years or less. The Olympic committee recognized his ability and used his skills with youth development.
It appears that Portillo has made the transition from coaching young boys to win to helping them succeed. It’s a transition that DeBerry openly speaks about now that he has returned to the mat to coach Tucson High this year.
“I’ve spoken to many of the older guys such as (Don) Klostreich and they felt the need to move beyond winning and focused instead on developing young men,” explained DeBerry.
“Creating better people and teaching them how to be successful in life – that is more important now,” he added.
Klostreich started the winning tradition at Sunnyside by taking nine titles from 1979 to 1988. It was the result of that feeder system that took several years to get going and now DeBerry would like to replicate it to some degree at Tucson High and he is starting with Roskruge K-8 school located across the street from his new school. DeBerry is still young enough to see his efforts come to fruition and, while that may not be good news for other high schools, it’s good news for his current and future athletes.
“The biggest difference I see now is the attitude of the kids who stayed from last year,” said DeBerry. “No more tears, no more worries. They just want to learn. It’s exciting.”
DeBerry took over the Badger program after a difficult year that was defined more by negative news brought on by their former coach than what was accomplished on the mats.
Like Portillo, Sabino head coach Larry Willingham found himself trying to build a program at Sabino when he was hired. A former Sabercat himself, Willingham returned to his roots to help build a local power that included several all-stars including Davey Basila, Matt Repp, David Ramirez and Jake Laird from last year’s squad.
Former Flowing Wells and college wrestler Eric Slabaugh heads up the program at Catalina and the “small world” community of wrestling continues with current Sunnyside coach Leon. Leon wrestled for Catalina before moving on to Pima and then Lindenwood University in Missouri.
Sunnyside is Leon’s first head coaching position and he is now in his second year at the helm and he recently led his squad to a dominating performance at the Peoria “Tournament of Champions” held this past winter break.
Sunnyside scored 264 points with Juaqin Olivas (113), Sergio Miranda (120), William Olivas (126), Raul Moraga (138), Aaron Steinebach (145) and Gabriel Gonzalez (195) winning titles and Ricky Villegas (heavyweight) earning a second place finish.
DeBerry took Tucson to the inaugural “Mile High Challenge” in Prescott during the break and the Badgers finished in 5th place in the building that will be home to the state tournament next month.
Bailey Janis of Mountain View was the outstanding wrestler at the Challenge after he swept through the 113 weight class. Mountain View came in 3rd and Salpointe finished 9th.
Sunnyside went on and got the best of Tucson on Wednesday night with a 56-9 victory over their former coach.
Next big invite: January 18-19 at Flowing Wells.
Next big meet: January 23: Sunnyside at Ironwood Ridge.