Three of the Sunnyside community’s highly successful wrestlers trained young hopefuls in the sport this weekend in a small training facility on the southside. The gathering had a sense of family and neighborhood involvement that is true to the area.
Parents took photos of wrestlers as young as 4 years old rolling around the mats. Nanas and Tatas were there. Homemade Mexican food was prepared outside the small JET Multi-Sport Training Facility that occupies a suite in the industrial buildings near Pennsylvania Street and Park Avenue.
“I love coming back here, and being part of this, giving back any way I can,” said Roman Bravo-Young motioning his hands to the wrestlers, whom he helped train over the weekend, on the mat and family members sitting on folding chairs on the pavement outside the back door with the food ready to be served.
Fitting that the training sessions took place at a facility located at Pennsylvania St. with Bravo-Young on a short Thanksgiving break from wrestling with Penn State.
“It’s good to be home, but I also am looking forward to getting back and working hard for the rest of our season,” said Bravo-Young, who returns to State College, Pa., on Thanksgiving Day for practice on Friday.
His appearance with Sunnyside senior Jesse Ybarra and Gallego Intermediate eighth grader Audrey Jimenez — both of whom young wrestlers respect and aspire to become — had a similar feel if Yankees Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Lefty Gomez occupied the same batting cage in the early 1930’s.
Former @SSBDwrestling standout @RomanBravoYoung talks about his impact on young wrestlers, including world-class eighth-grader Audrey Jimenez and Sunnyside senior @JesseYbarra17 pic.twitter.com/q8VivjNZt7
Bravo-Young, a 133-pound wrestler with a 30-7 record including 5-0 this season at Penn State, went 182-0 over four years at Sunnyside, winning four-straight state titles in the process.
Ybarra, a 120-pounder, has signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Iowa after helping the Blue Devils win their 32nd state championship last year. Ybarra is a two-time state champion who won a national title in a Flo Wrestling event in early October at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Iowa’s campus.
Tremendous array of @SSBDwrestling wrestling talent: Jesse Ybarra (Iowa signee), Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) and Audrey Jimenez (Gallego Intermediate bound for Sunnyside’s dynasty of a program next year). pic.twitter.com/aMZeOWObaK
“(Bravo-Young) definitely helped me out when he was there (at Sunnyside). Showed me a lot of stuff. Pushed me real hard,” Ybarra said. “Later on, now that he’s gone, it helps me help others. I understand what he did with me and I’m trying to pass it on to others. Pass it down.”
Jimenez is a world-class wrestler who is an accomplished student and mariachi musician at Gallego within the Sunnyside Unified School District. She is a member of the Sunnyside Wrestling Academy and the USA Wrestling National Team.
She recently went undefeated in her three matches at the U15 Pan American women’s freestyle championships in Panama. She earned a gold medal for her 39-kilogram weight class. Next weekend, she will be in Colorado Springs for the King and Queen of the Mountain tournament in which she will compete against boys and girls her age.
She said she is bound for Sunnyside’s storied wrestling program next season, ending speculation she might attend the Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania that has a renowned girls wrestling program.
“Wrestling at Sunnyside really pushes me because of the great wrestlers in the room every day,” said Jimenez, who first started in jiu-jitsu when she was 4. “They push me to work harder (at Sunnyside). Just watching them wrestle teaches me new stuff and it’s just a great community in there.
“Next year, when I go to Sunnyside, I don’t think I’ll be that nervous because I know a lot of the people. … When it comes to wrestling, I’m going to try out for the boys team. It’s more of a challenge for me. I can be so much more successful. Depending how I can do, I will wrestle at state in boys.”
What an experience for both wrestlers: World-class youth wrestler Audrey Jimenez learning from @SSBDwrestling great Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State and Bravo-Young feeding off the energy of Jimenez, who wants to learn about the sport she loves. pic.twitter.com/2vMr50IEbZ
The two-day workout at JET Multi-Sport Training included Bravo-Young devoting time to inspire and train young wrestlers along with Ybarra and Jimenez. After wrestling last Friday night at ASU, Bravo-Young drove home with family to Tucson. He won his match against the Sun Devils, who upset the Nittany Lions, snapping their 60-match winning streak.
“Most of that (streak) was done before I got to Penn State, so it’s not something I think about,” Bravo-Young told the participants at JET in a question-and-answer session.
Two @SSBDwrestling greats working with kids today: Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State grappling with a kid and Jesse Ybarra, a senior bound for Iowa, looking on. Ybarra also on the mat a lot today. pic.twitter.com/bCh7spqJ7W
Bravo-Young fielded questions on the challenge of balancing academics with his training and what kind of advice could he offer kids with a similar background of his growing up in the Sunnyside area.
“It’s about being young and knowing what you want, right?” said Bravo-Young, who is studying sports management to operate and run his own recreation center. “Set your goals now and know what you want. Are you doing something every day to get to that goal? Are you being a good kid?
“All that (bad) stuff can set you back even if you don’t think it will. Just the little things in life, not turning in your homework, can cost you something in a match. That can be one point in a match. That’s the perspective you should have with wrestling and your life. Just know what you want and work hard for it. You guys can all be state champions. I was in the same spot as you guys are now.”
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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.