Legendary Sunnyside wrestler Roman Bravo-Young took time from his trip home and training for the upcoming Junior Pan-American Championships in Guatemala to meet mostly fifth-grade students at Gallego Intermediate School in the Sunnyside School District on Monday afternoon.
Bravo-Young, home in Tucson after a highly successful freshman season at Penn State, offered his advice on what it takes to make it big while attending school on the southside at Sunnyside.
The students marveled with a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” when video was shown of Bravo-Young’s “Flying Squirrel” maneuver against a Lehigh wrestler this season.
One of his Penn State teammates Paul Feite, who was born without a left hand, has accompanied Bravo-Young to Tucson this month. Feite talked about overcoming odds with his wrestling career. Feite redshirted as a freshman with the national champion Nittany Lions this season.
They talked about a range of topics including Bravo-Young telling the kids to stay off social media as much as possible. “It will take up too much of your time and it’s not worth it,” he said. “Our coach does not let us use it during the season and we’re all fine with that. It keeps us focused.”
Gallego administrator Alex Urquidez asked them how they balance every day life, school and wrestling, which can be a difficult task for somebody who is 20 like Bravo-Young.
“Biggest thing is time management,” Bravo-Young told the crowd at the Gallego auditorium which also included the school’s wrestlers, some teachers and special needs students.
“We all have 24 hours, what do you guys want to do with your 24 hours? If you want to sit there and play Fortnite all night obviously your work is not going to get done. Have good time management. If you have work, don’t push it aside, don’t wait until the last minute. A lot of people have trouble procrastinating. Do the things when they need to done, do them early.”
Bravo-Young has all this success, while also finding the time to play Fortnite, so getting the necessary work done is certainly achievable.
He earned All-American status at Penn State this season by placing eighth in the 133-pound class of the NCAA tournament. He also earned Academic All-American status with a GPA of almost 3.5.
This follows a Sunnyside career in which he was a four-time state champion with an unblemished 182-0 record (the most wins ever for an Arizona high school wrestler). He led the Blue Devils to their 31st state title in 2018.
He has gone from one dynasty to another at Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won eight of the last nine NCAA championships. Bravo-Young’s work ethic falls right in line with Penn State’s success under legendary coach Cael Sanderson.
“One piece of advice I would give to you guys is to pay attention to your teachers and your parents, and get your work done,” Bravo-Young told the students. “Being the class clown or trying to get attention is not the way to go. If you want to make something of yourselves, you must do the work that is required of you.”
Bravo-Young fielded various questions from students including if he knew their brothers, cousins or uncles who were involved with Sunnyside wrestling.
One question of Bravo-Young from school counselor Rene Gonzalez: When was somebody kind to him?
Bravo-Young talked about getting hurt trying to do a back flip at Purdue and getting a boost literally from his coach, Sanderson.
“After the match, I couldn’t walk; my knee was jacked up,” Bravo-Young said. “We had to drive and fly for our next match at Indiana. My coach Cale Sanderson, who is probably the best college wrestler ever (at Iowa State), he gave me a piggy-back ride to the airport, everywhere we went because I couldn’t walk and we had no wheelchair, no crutches, because we were in a different state.
“So, yeah, he was being kind giving me piggy-back rides everywhere.”
Remarkably, shortly after that injury, on Feb. 8, Bravo-Young pulled off one of the biggest upsets for Penn State.
Bravo-Young, ranked No. 15, outlasted No. 6 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State to win 2-1 in overtime. He and Pletcher were deadlocked through seven minutes and the overtime period, but Bravo-Young escaped in the tiebreaker and maintained control.
Feite, from Dillsburg, Pa., will wrestle with Penn State at 149 pounds next season.
Feite told the students that wrestling without a left hand “is not nothing different to me.”
“I’ve been adapted to it all my life … it’s everything I know,” he said. “Everyone makes a big deal about me wrestling with one hand and everything but I don’t think much any of it.”
That drew an applause from the students.
It was one of many times the kids cheered.
Another win of many for Bravo-Young.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.