The scene at Jet Sports Training on Friday was appropriate with some of Roman Bravo-Young’s closest family members, friends and supporters on hand to celebrate the Sunnyside High School graduate’s first NCAA wrestling championship.
Jet Sports Training owner Bobby Rodriguez, another Sunnyside grad who has helped train Bravo-Young and is like a brother to him, had his place decorated with large foil balloons that read “National Champ” with a Penn State flag hanging in between the words.
Bravo-Young’s closest supporters ate Mexican food catered by Little Mexico and music played by a DJ filled the spacious workout facility that is on the city’s southside, where he was raised.
A few tables were topped with Penn State tablecloths and blue and white balloons — Penn State’s colors which also happen to be those of Sunnyside. On display on one of the tables was Bravo-Young’s 133-pound NCAA national championship wrestling trophy.
“Everything since I was a little kid, the ups and downs and the struggles, people don’t see — I’m just a kid from Tucson,” Bravo-Young said. “People don’t see that especially on the East coast. I’m representing more than myself.
“I think winning it for me, not for myself, but for them, it’s just huge.”
Bravo-Young’s mother Sarah M. Bravo-Cruz, her wife Melissa, and grandfather Mike Bravo, a longtime wrestling coach in Tucson, were among those who gathered to celebrate his achievement. Toby Bourguet, owner of Tucson Turf and coach of the successful youth football program, and his wife Vanessa, who are related to the Bravo family, were also on hand.
Sarah recalled the days of waking Roman early to leave their southside home so he can be bussed to Tully Elementary School in north-central Tucson to attend the self-contained gifted education program there.
She knows all about the diligence that went into her son becoming who he is today, not only a national championship wrestler and a three-time All-American, but also a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association National All-Academic Team as a recreation, park and tourism major.
“Roman’s accomplishments mean a lot to us, for my son to be able to represent Sunnyside and Tucson and kind of get us out there,” Sarah said. “It helps people know that dreams do come true for us people in Southern Arizona and on the southside of Tucson.
“He made it out, and this is just a great moment. I’m very thankful for all his supporters and everybody who follows him and supports us. We’re very grateful.”
Their reactions when Bravo-Young became a champion was telling for how Roman and Sarah built up to that moment.
Sarah was in attendance at St. Louis with a contingent from Tucson that included Melissa, Rodriguez, Mike Bravo, legendary Sunnyside football and wrestling coach Richard Sanchez, former Sunnyside state champ Danny Vega Sr. and his son Danny, a 125-pound wrestler from Ironwood Ridge who took part in the NCAA championship bracket with South Dakota State.
Bravo-Young’s match with Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix reached overtime tied at two with him scoring his two points on an escape and his riding time. Fix’s two points came on two questionable stalling calls against Bravo-Young.
Sarah became very nervous when the match reached the sudden-victory overtime period.
“It was very emotional. I actually had to leave the stands and I didn’t get to see it in the moment, but as soon as I heard the screams, there were just so many emotions,” Sarah said.
Bravo-Young’s quick takedown turning Fix by the ankles just a few seconds into overtime gave him the national title with a 4-2 win. He stared wide-eyed, mouth agape as if in shock as he came to his feet before the ref raised his hand into the air as the victor.
“It was a surreal moment, it was like, ‘Wow, I did it,'” he said. “Everybody wants to be an NCAA champ. When you’re wrestling, you want to be an NCAA champ. I was like, ‘Wow, I finally did that.’ That was a goal I’ve always wanted.
“I’ve watched NCAA championship videos every single day since I was in middle school. I was like, ‘I wish I could be there one day.’ And then corona (COVID-19) takes it away in my second year (last season). I had another chance to win it. It’s a lot. I was like, ‘Wow, I finally did it.’ It was like relief a little bit.”
Bravo-Young won four state titles at Sunnyside with an 182-0 record.
He is aiming for two more championships at Penn State. He said he will wrestle into a fifth year at the school because the NCAA ruled to not take eligibility away from athletes this school year due to the uncertainty of COVID-19.
.@SSBDwrestling alum Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State celebrated his NCAA wrestling title with friends and family tonight at Jet Sports Training. Support from those close to him meaningful because they’ve been with him from the beginning. pic.twitter.com/A8zD27x0qP
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 27, 2021
Getting that first NCAA title to him means that his training at Penn State and with Rodriguez at Jet Sports Training is not done.
He has aspirations of winning multiple national titles and becoming a five-time All-American, with four of them earned on the mat. He was selected an All-American last year by coaches because the national championships were canceled due to COVID19.
The fruits of his labor will not only include bringing home more trophies. The opportunities to share his success again with those closest to him is what he cherishes.
“It feels good when you’re on top, but you’ve got to know how I felt when I was at the bottom when there wasn’t a lot of people there,” he said. “Just knowing that balance and my family’s support, I do get a lot of support, that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
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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.