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Grammer: DeBerry’s Devil of a dynasty earns honors

Citizen’s Wrestling Coach of Year gets family in on act

LEFT: Sunnyside sophomore wrestler Kory DeBerry and Sunnyside coach Bobby DeBerry (2009). RIGHT: Sunnyside coach Bobby DeBerry and 4-year-old Kory DeBerry (1997)

LEFT: Sunnyside sophomore wrestler Kory DeBerry and Sunnyside coach Bobby DeBerry (2009). RIGHT: Sunnyside coach Bobby DeBerry and 4-year-old Kory DeBerry (1997)

Other wrestling coverage: Wrestler of the Year story / Wrestling All-Star list

Down on one knee, hands in front of his face with his palms pressed firmly together and fingers extended, Bobby DeBerry is in deep concentration.

His eyes, and thoughts, are honed toward the mat.

They have been for years.

The current guardian of the Sunnyside High School wrestling dynasty, DeBerry hasn’t skipped a beat since taking over the South Side program during the 1994-95 school year.

Under DeBerry, the Blue Devils this winter won their 12th straight state team title and 28th overall, earning him 2009 Tucson Citizen Wrestling Coach of the Year honors.

And while the numbers are staggering – in addition to the 28 state championships, the program has won more than 500 dual matches to just two defeats (one in 1993, one in 1998) in the past 20 years – the winning is only a byproduct of the family the Sunnyside program has become for hundreds of South Siders under DeBerry and all the coaches that laid the groundwork before him.

“I’m starting to look at these 4-, 5-year-old kids starting in our (youth wrestling) program now and they’re the sons of the guys we coached in high school,” DeBerry said. “That says as much as anything, that these kids got something out of the program, enough so to bring back their kids to experience the same thing.”

To call what the 48-year-old DeBerry has going on at Sunnyside a family affair isn’t just figurative. DeBerry’s wife, Kathy, has been so much a part of Sunnyside wrestling through the years that she is a certified coach. Son Kyle DeBerry, now a wrestler at Arizona State, was a four-time state champion for the Blue Devils until graduating two years ago. Last month, youngest son Kory DeBerry, a Sunnyside sophomore, won his second-straight state title (at 135 pounds in 2008, 140 pounds this year) and is the 2009 Tucson Citizen Wrestler of the Year.

“I’ve always wanted to do it. I was born into it,” said Kory, who could be seen scurrying around the high school gymnasiums in a Sunnyside wrestling uniform and blue wrestling headgear since he was a 4-year-old, 34-pounder.

“He’d only take that thing off when he went to sleep,” Bobby DeBerry recalls with a laugh. “He’d wear the headgear to the store even and we’d have people come up and feel so sorry for him thinking he had something wrong and had to wear it.”

For DeBerry, who other than updated frames for his eyeglasses doesn’t look a day older than when he took over the program 14 years ago, the pride in his voice when talking about his own sons can also be heard when he talks about anyone of his other prized South Side pupils.

Much like the Sunnyside football program, coached by former wrestling coach and current Sunnyside Athletic Director Richard Sanchez, the Blue Devils wrestling program has become as much about its winning tradition as it has become a stabilizing force in the lives of otherwise at-risk teenagers.

It’s a responsibility DeBerry doesn’t take lightly.

“You look at some of the kids and sometimes things get tough in their personal lives,” DeBerry said. “And the only consistent thing in their lives for some of the kids is us together – depending on each other when things get tough. Sometimes things go really, really wrong. And the kids to watch out for each other.”

The us-against-the-world mentality has worked for the Blue Devils through the years, but the 2009 team was as young as any at the school since DeBerry has been coach.

While some take a look at the history of the program and pre-anoint the Blue Devils as state champion even before the season starts, it isn’t always that easy.

“People ask all the time (about the records and statistics) and until I write it down or go look at what is written down, I really don’t think about it,” DeBerry said. “It’s more of keeping each year into itself, its own year. The other day I sent the guys a (message) telling them they have 230 days until practice starts, so we can hopefully do what we need to do to get things done next year.”

Sunnyside showed rare vulnerability this season when powerhouse Class 3A Safford High School upset the Blue Devils in the Flowing Wells Invitational. Still, the Blue Devils boasted as good a season-long résumé as anyone in the state, winning the 5A-II state championship, the 5A-II Southern Region championship, Peoria Tournament of Champions and placing third in the Reno (Nev.) Tournament of Champions to go along with a perfect 22-0 record in duals.

DeBerry says he doesn’t see a day when he won’t be coaching at Sunnyside. Even after Kory graduates in two years, the bond he has formed with the program and with the kids he coaches has grown too strong to turn away.

“I used to think, maybe when Kory was done, I’d step down,” DeBerry said. “But then I look down and see a kid, a 5-year-old kid jumping into the program that is the son of one of the boys I coached and I think, ‘I can’t turn my back on that. I have to see this one through and see what happens.’ ”

DeBerry doesn’t like talking about his place among the all-time high school coaching greats in Arizona, even if it has become obvious he is in that elite class. He preaches to his kids to focus on the task in front of them, don’t get consumed by individual accomplishment and don’t allow yourself to get swallowed into the enormity of the what the program has become.

When asked what being the coach of Sunnyside has meant to him, he paused.

He put his hands in front of his face with his palms pressed firmly together and fingers extended, and stared forward for a moment of quiet reflection.

“Just to be around it,” DeBerry said after a short pause. “If somebody were to put it all down on paper, it would really be a good book, wouldn’t it?”

Geoff Grammer’s e-mail: ggrammer@tucsoncitizen.com (ggrammer@tucsoncitizen.com)

Kory, left, and Bobby DeBerry (2009).

Kory, left, and Bobby DeBerry (2009).

Bobby, left, and Kory DeBerry (1997).

Bobby, left, and Kory DeBerry (1997).



Wednesday: Wrestling all-stars

Thursday: Boys and Girls soccer all-stars

Friday: Boys and Girls basketball all-stars



Sunnyside won the 5A-II state title this year and had 11 top-five finishers in the individual meet:

103 pounds - Estevan Soqui (5th place)

112 - Alex Ayers (2nd)

119 - Lucio Murrillo (champion)

130 - Lestley Lewis (3rd)

135 - Simon Villa (4th)

140 - Kory DeBerry (champion)

145 - Shemuel Ruelas (4th)

152 - Manny Aranda (2nd)

160 - Cedric Gonzalez (2nd)

189 - Anthony Pike (champion)

215 - Diego Bravo (3rd)

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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