Year That Was 2021

Year That Was: 2021 Individual Champions in Southern Arizona


Roman Bravo-Young won his first NCAA title on March 20 (Penn State photo)

Sunnyside High School wrestling legend Roman Bravo-Young added a national championship to all of his accolades on March 20. The Penn State junior, the No. 2 seed in the 133-pound bracket of the NCAA tournament, defeated top-seed Daton Fix of Oklahoma State by a 4-2 sudden-victory decision at St. Louis. His quick takedown of Fix, an Olympic hopeful last year when he redshirted, in overtime brought him the title. “I was hanging on there at the end, but I just moved my feet and hit an angle,” Bravo-Young told ESPN2 about his takedown. “I don’t care what happened in that match. A national title is a national title. It feels amazing. I put a lot of work into this. It’s a lot of pressure sometimes but I got it done and now I’m a national champion forever.” Bravo-Young, who won four state titles at Sunnyside and went 182-0 in his career with the Blue Devils, also became a three-time All-American by advancing to the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Bravo-Young also earned his first Big Ten title defeating Iowa’s Austin DeSanto by a 5-2 decision on March 7 at University Park, Pa. He was named the Penn State Male Athlete of the Year on June 28.


Ironwood Ridge’s Brasen Briones (Andy Morales/

Ironwood Ridge sophomore Brasen Briones put together an incredible 8-under 138 to take the boys state championship on Oct. 26. Briones is the first champion from the Tucson area since 2016 and the sophomore will be part a large contingent of golfers competing for the top sport next year with only three seniors finishing in the top ten.


Sabino’s Eva Bruce earned the honor of “Arizona’s Greatest Athlete” with her four state titles (Andy Morales/

Only a junior, Sabino track and field standout Eva Bruce brought home four individual state championships at the AIA Division III State Meet held May 14-15 at Phoenix Desert Vista High School. Her championships in the 100, 200, 300 Hurdles and Long Jump helped lead the Sabercats to a runner-up finish in team competition. Her times and marks are tops in Southern Arizona regardless of level in the 100 Hurdles and 300 Hurdles and second in the 100, 200, 400 and Long Jump. She solidified her position as the best in Southern Arizona, and the state, by winning the Heptathlon Championship held at Mesa Red Mountain High School. Bruce outdistanced Beatriz Razon of Centennial 4569 to 4513 and Catherine Littlewood of Queen Creek took third with 4390 points. Bruce earned the “Arizona’s Greatest Athlete” honor after her victory. The seven events include the 100 Hurdles (8), High Jump (5), Shot Put (2), 200 (2), Long Jump (2), Javelin (5) and 800 (1).


Emily Flowers (Andy Morales/

Catalina Foothills Class of 2022 standout Emily Flowers won her second state singles championship in tennis on May 3. She has signed to continue her academics and tennis career with Xavier.


Rob Gronkowski (NFL photos)

Rob Gronkowski played in his sixth Super Bowl on Feb. 7, and he earned his fourth championship — both top accomplishments among former Arizona Wildcats. The tight end who lettered at Arizona in 2008 and 2009 caught two touchdown passes in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. He led the Buccaneers with six receptions for 67 yards.


Sam Hala’ufia (Andy Morales/

Sam Hala’ufia, Class of 2022 of Mountain View, won the Division II state championship in the shot put (54-1.25) and discus (160-2) on May 13.


Brianna Hardy

Former Buena softball standout Brianna Hardy was selected the NFCA NJCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year on June 6 and then was chosen the NJCAA Female Student Athlete of the Year on June 17 after leading Phoenix College to the 2021 NJCAA Division II Softball Championship title in May. The Bears put together an incredible seventh-inning comeback against Jones (MS), scoring three runs with two outs to take the lead and clinch the title. Hardy pitched the full seven innings in the national final game, leaving the circle with eight strikeouts. At the national tournament, Hardy earned Most Valuable Player honors. During the regular season, Hardy’s pitching resume will be remembered as one of the most dominant seasons in NJCAA softball history. The sophomore earned 32 wins and one save inside the circle throughout Phoenix’s 45-game schedule. Hardy led the NJCAA in six major pitching categories including wins (32), complete games (27), shutouts (14), strikeouts (325), strikeouts per game (12.10), and earned run average (1.08).


Audrey Jimenez is a high school girls wrestling pioneer (Andy Morales/

Audrey Jimenez won by fall in 3:53 over Valley Vista’s Brianna Reyes to claim the 113-pound girls wrestling state title at Gilbert Mesquite High School on March 6, becoming the first female from Sunnyside to achieve that feat. Jimenez, a freshman who attended Gallego Intermediate, is also the first female wrestler from Tucson to win a state title. “It’s a great accomplishment for me and others,” Jimenez said. “Hopefully this will be the start of growing girls wrestling at Sunnyside. I’m hoping that more girls follow in my footsteps.” Jimenez was selected the Roman Bravo-Young Southern Arizona Wrestler of the Year by on March 24.

— On May 8, Jimenez earned the 2021 United World Wrestling (UWW) U.S. cadet women’s freestyle national championship at 49 kilograms (108 pounds) at Irving, Texas. Jimenez beat Faith Cole of St. Louis in a best-of-three series by winning the first two matches with scores of 5-0 and 6-0. She also earned the Outstanding Wrestler award for the entire cadet women’s freestyle competition. None of the wrestlers scored a point against her in the competition. In the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, she won by technical fall scores of 10-0.

— Jimenez eturned to Tucson from the 2021 Cadet World Championships at Hungary, Budapest, with a bronze medal in the 49 kg (108-pound) weight class after her technical fall win July 22 over Romania’s Delia Voiculescu. Jimenez defeated Voiculescu in 1:45 after generating a leg lace and operating two turns to reach the 10-0 victory. Jimenez earned her second international medal — she won the U15 gold in the 2019 Pan Am Games — after rebounding from an 8-6 loss in the semifinals to Svenja Jungo of Switzerland.

— Jimenez made history on Sept. 17 beating fellow standout Paige Morales in the 106-pound competition of FloWrestling’s first all-girls card of its Who’s Number One competition at Dallas. The 10-bout card featured three No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches, with the main event featuring a pair of No. 1-ranked wrestlers from different weight classes. The final No. 1 vs. No. 2 competition was between Jimenez (bronze medalist the at the Cadet World Championships this summer) against Morales (a winner this summer at the Fargo, N.D., Championships). Jimenez, seeded No. 1, was tied at 9 with Morales, of Clovis, Calif., with 54 seconds left in the match. Morales’ attempted throw was blocked by Jimenez, who mounted Morales and locked the pin.


Jade Kwinn (Sabino photo)

Sabino senior thrower Jade Kwinn set a personal record in the javelin throw held May 8 at Seton Catholic in Chandler to win her first Division III state championship. Her throw of 151-06 set a personal and state record at the same time. “I felt like I was going to PR when I got here,” Kwinn said. “I stayed calm for the most part and treated it like any other meet.” Kwinn came to the sport a couple of years ago, about the time the AIA sanctioned the javelin throw for state competition. “I was doing the hep (heptathlon) and I went to my throwing coach and I discovered how much I really liked it,” Kwinn added. “It felt natural and I realized I was good at it and I had the drive to get better and here I am, a state champion.”


Ais Martinez-Pompa (Martinez-Pompa photo)

Cienega Class of 2023 standout Ais Martinez-Pompa won the Division II state title with a javelin throw of 130-6 on May 8.


Salpointe’s Makenzie McRee (Andy Morales/

Salpointe senior Mackenzie McRee picked up her second individual state title on Oct. 26 thanks to a 3-under 138 to hold off Makenzie Cooper of Canyon View (140) and Marley Moncada of Cienega (140). \McRee won the 2018 state title as a freshman


Taylor McCue (Andy Morales/

Taylor McCue of Catalina Foothills placed first in the Division II state title in the 1600 (5:01.16) on May 13.


Jared Perry (Andy Morales/

Catalina Foothills Class of 2023 standout Jared Perry won his first singles title on May 3 in the tennis state championships.


Brad Reeves (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona senior Brad Reeves won the Pac-12 individual title at 16-under on April 28 after a tap-in birdie putt on the second playoff hole to defeat Stanford’s Henry Shimp. “It’s such a special feeling to see Brad work so hard over his career to reach this pinnacle and for him to become a champion is an accomplishment we are all so proud of,” said Arizona coach Jim Anderson, whose team won the Pac-12 title. Reeves was selected the Pac-12 Player of the Year.


Delaney Schnell (Arizona Athletics)

Arizona diver Delaney Schnell, a Tucson High grad, was crowned Pac-12 champion of the 1-meter dive on Feb. 24 and then broke the school and conference record in the platform-dive prelims on Feb. 26 at Arizona’s facility. Schnell won the 1-meter event by a landslide as she put up a score of 343.45, nearly 30 more points than the runner-up who scored 313.90. Her record score in the platform dive was 383.35. She would go on to win the platform final with a score of 364.50. The previous Pac-12 record for the platform dive was held by Eline Eggers from ASU when she scored 345.60 total points at the 2011 Pac-12 Championships. 

— Schnell and Jessica Parratto (Indiana) scored 930 points to claim the top spot at the Women’s Synchronized 10-Meter Platform trials held in Indianapolis on June 11, qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. A day later, Schnell won the individual 10-meter Platform to qualify for the Olympics in that event. Schnell was in third place after the first round but she moved up to the second spot after round two, 14.3 points behind Murphy Bromberg. Schnell pulled ahead of the field in the next round by 3.85 points and she came away with the victory with 1021.90 points to 984.70 for Katrina Young.

— Schnell and Parratto won the Olympic silver medal in the Women’s 10-Meter Synchro Finals July 27 in Tokyo. It was the first-ever medal for Team USA in 10-Meter Synchro.

Sal Silva

Sal Silva

Walden Grove alum Sal Silva, who attends North Idaho College, captured the NJCAA wrestling championship at 149 pounds on April 22 with a 3-1 decision over Jacob Beeson of Pratt (Kan.) at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Silva, who won the 138-pound state championship to help pace Walden Grove to a Division III second-place finish in 2018, took third place at the NJCAA national champions last year in the 149-pound weight class. Silva announced in February his commitment to continue studies and wrestling career at Arizona Christian in Glendale. Silva’s title came a month after Sunnyside great Roman Bravo-Young won the NCAA title at 133 pounds while with Penn State.


Kevin Sutherland (PGA photo)

Kevin Sutherland chipped in for the only birdie of the final round on No. 16 and had a tap-in for another on the next hole, shooting a 4-under 69 to overtake Mike Weir in the Colorguard Classic on Feb. 28 at Tucson National. Sutherland trailed by two to start the day and was down four after Weir birdied the par-5 eighth in blustery conditions.


Lauren Ware brought home the gold (Team USA photo)

The Team USA women’s basketball team and Arizona second-year freshman forward Lauren Ware struck gold Aug. 15 by defeating Australia 70-52 in the FIBA U19 World Cup championship at Debrecen, Hungary. Ware started for Team USA and finished with seven points, five rebounds, and one blocked shot. She averaged close to 15 minutes per game and scored almost seven points per game. She had a rebounding average of close to five a game.


Turner Washington (ASU photo)

Canyon del Oro grad and former Arizona track and field athlete Turner Washington, now a redshirt junior at ASU, won the NCAA indoor shot put championship on March 12 with a throw of 70 feet, one inch at Fayetteville, Ark. Washington is the USTFCCCA West Region Field Athlete of the Year after shattering the NCAA indoor record for the shot put earlier this season at the Texas Tech Shootout. Washington went 71-8.25 on his final attempt in that meet for the record.

— Washington brought home the NCAA Division I championship with a mark of 21.10 meters (69 feet, 2.75 inches) in the shot put on June 10 at the Outdoor Championships taking place Eugene, Ore., and he followed that up with a championship in the discus with a toss of 63.42/208-1. His victory in the shot put and discus automatically qualifies him as a First Team All-American.


Kylie Wild of Salpointe is a two-time state champ (Andy Morales/

— Salpointe Class of 2023 standout runner Kylie Wild won the 3,200 (11:02.61) at the Division III state championships held at Phoenix Desert Vista on May 14.

— Wild picked up her second straight individual cross country championship in D-III on Nov. 14. She finished the course in 18:41.0.  Wild’s time was more than 15 seconds faster than runner-up Evelynne Carr of American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek. Wild and Carr finished first and second last year as well, with Wild winning with a time of 18:37.30, 0.2 seconds faster than Carr.


Randy Robbins hugs a Casa Grande coach after the Cougars’ 4A state title victory over Poston Butte (Javier Morales/

Randy Robbins, a former Arizona Wildcats and Denver Broncos standout cornerback who graduated from Casa Grande in 1980, celebrated the 4A state championship won by his alma mater on Dec. 10 at Sun Devil Stadium as the school’s athletic director. Casa Grande’s 33-28 win over Poston Butte gave the Cougars their first state title in the Arizona Interscholastic Association bracket format. The school won a mythical state championship in 1958 with a 9-0-1 record before the AIA administered the playoffs.

Andy Litten

Mountain View alum Andy Litten coached Scottsdale Horizon to a state championship (Andy Morales/

Former Marana coach Andy Litten, a Marana Mountain View alum, coached Scottsdale Horizon to its first state championship since 1994 with the Huskies’ 38-28 win over Salpointe at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe on Dec. 10. His coaching staff includes Tucsonan Cam Wierson, the Huskies’ defensive coordinator who served as offensive analyst and wide receivers coach at Hamilton the last two years with Litten as the offensive coordinator. Wierson played at Pima College in 2007 after graduating from Ironwood Ridge.

D-I Southern Arizona High School wrestling champions:

CHAMPION: James Armstrong (Sunnyside) 12-0, So

James Armstrong (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

CHAMPION: Sebastian Robles (Sunnyside) 12-0, Sr.

Sebastian Robles (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

CHAMPION: Rene Fragoso (Sunnyside) 12-0, Jr.

Rene Fragoso (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

D-II Southern Arizona High School wrestling champions:

Enzo Spina (Ironwood Ridge) 10-1

Daniel Miranda (Mountain View) 16-1

Brandon Paredes (Mountain View) 18-0

Austin Scott (Mountain View) 18-0

Chris Lopez (Mountain View) 9-0

Rudy Acedo (Mountain View) 16-0

D-IV Southern Arizona High School wrestling champions:

Wyatt Ogle (Santa Cruz) 5-0

Ote Allsup (Willcox) 5-0

Diego Chavez (Santa Cruz) 5-0

Southern Arizona swimmers

Tyler Driscoll pictured diving at the top (Andy Morales/

Eight Southern Arizona swimmers won state titles in the state swimming meet Nov. 6:

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe, 3 titles
Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge, 2
Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills, 2
Sydney Even, Salpointe, 2
Riley Stewart, Canyon del Oro
Carter Dooling, Ironwood Ridge
Sterling Edwards, Salpointe
Sofia Prevatt, Salpointe


Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge: 1:49.32 (AA: C)

Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge: 4:54.18 (AA: C)

Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills: 1:49.92

Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills: 4:52.05

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe: 23.26

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe: 54.86

Riley Stewart, Canyon del Oro: 1:52.00

Sydney Even, Salpointe: 51.56

Carter Dooling, Ironwood Ridge: 56.28

Salpointe (Even, Sydney; Edwards, Sterling; Prevatt, Sofia; Driscoll, Tyler) 3:33.87


Justice Summerset

Johnnie Blockburger of Tucson High School won the Pac-12 men’s 400m race after crossing the finish line in 45.57. His PR time of 44.71 remains the Arizona school record as well as an Olympic Trials qualifying time. Blockburger was named Pac-12 Track and Field Freshman of the Year on May 24. Blockburger also anchored Arizona’s second-place 4×400-meter relay at the Pac-12 Championships, which crossed in 3:08.75. Blockburger has since transferred to USC.

Jordan Geist and Samantha Noennig pulled off the Wildcat sweep in the men’s and women’s shot put at the Pac-12 meet. Geist claimed his third consecutive conference shot put title with a mark of 20.35m (66-9.25), adding to his 2019 and 2018 accolades. Noennig threw for 17.32m (56-10) to win her second Pac-12 title, but her first for Arizona.

Justice Summerset, of Marana Mountain View, claimed his own conference title in the men’s high jump, getting over the bar at 2.20m (7-2.5).


Dominique Acosta

Pima sophomore Mikhail Browne won the triple jump at 7.13 meters (23-feet, 4.75-inches) and the long jump title with mark of 14.71 meters (48-feet, 3-inches) at the NJCAA Division II Region I championships at Mesa Community College in April.

Pima freshman Cody Rennaker took first place in the high jump as a best-jump of 1.93 meters (6-4) at the NJCAA Division II Region I championships.

Pima sophomore Eliza Littlewood was named the Region I Athlete of the Meet after she scored 42 points for the Aztecs . She won the heptathlon with a total of 3734 points, and claimed the triple jump title with a mark of 10.74 meters (35 feet, 3 inches) at the NJCAA Division II Region I championships.

Pima freshman Dominique Acosta of Nogales won the high jump with a mark of 1.63 meters (5-4) at the NJCAA Division II Region I championships.

Pima sophomore Raelynn Fair won the long jump event with a mark of 5.57 meters (18-3.25) at the NJCAA Division II Region I championships.


Marlies Mejia-Garcia placed first among women in the 2021 El Tour de Tucson (El Tour de Tucson photo)

Marlies Mejia-Garcia placed first among women and Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo topped the men competition in the 102-mile 2021 El Tour de Tucson ride on Nov. 20. The popular Southern Arizona event returned in earnest this year after COVID-19 affected its operation last year.


FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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