Sunnyside takes on Ponderosa’s challenge, emerges victorious

Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa High School requested the opportunity to schedule a wrestling match at Sunnyside to see how the Mustangs match up in a dual meet against one of the top dynasties in the country in any sport.

Ponderosa has superior credentials itself in Colorado, winning 10 state titles in the last 25 years, and the Mustangs have gone undefeated in league matches since 1994 with 18 consecutive league titles. 

“We got a lot of high level matches and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Sunnyside coach Anthony Leon, whose team defeated Ponderosa 38-20 on Wednesday night. “We’re trying to get to the next level and compete at the national level.”

Leon, who has coached the Blue Devils to four consecutive state titles and five overall, added that Ponderosa “reached out to us, they wanted to wrestle us, and we’re game, always.”

Legendary Sunnyside wrestler Thom Ortiz, now the coach at Scottsdale Saguaro, was in attendance. He was one of the wrestlers who helped Don Klostreich set the foundation in the 1980’s for the Blue Devils’ dynasty,

The Blue Devils have won 34 state titles, and they look very capable of adding to that total with a mixture of successful veterans and newcomers.

Seniors Jaime Rivera (152 pounds) and Rene Fragoso (190) will again challenge for state titles this year, as will freshmen Carlitos Stanton (128) and Sergio Vega (113).

Go down each weight class and Sunnyside will have a contender, which is the case year after year because of how Leon, his staff, the Sunnyside Wrestling Club and generations of families produce champions starting in grade school.

Vega, for example, is the younger brother of former Ironwood Ridge standout Danny Vega Jr., who qualified for last season’s NCAA Tournament at 125 pounds at South Dakota State. Their father Danny Vega Sr. was a three-time state champion at Sunnyside.

The youngest Vega is coming off a title in the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions last month in which he won all six of his matches, three by fall. He had a rematch Wednesday with Ponderosa’s DJ Wince, whom he pinned in 1:07 in the first round at Reno.

Sergio won by fall one more time against Wince in 1:46, dominating from the start, in the last match Wednesday with the large Sunnyside contingent standing and making noise.

“It’s cool, it’s hard work … training hard is helping me,” Vega said. “This year I want to go undefeated and win state, win (the) Flowing Wells (Invitational) this weekend, win state and be a four-timer (state champ) of course.

“My brother, ever since he came back from South Dakota, I’ve been training with him a lot. Last summer he helped me making my level go up. Getting beat by him all the time, the feel, makes me feel better.”

In another Ponderosa-Sunnyside rematch from the Reno Tournament of Champions, Stanton avenged a loss by major decision (12-2) against Brandon Cannon at 120 pounds in the semifinals. Cannon went on to win the championship

On Wednesday night in a 128-pound match, Stanton persevered with a 7-5 decision against Cannon. That was the second match of the night, following James Armstrong’s thrilling 9-8 decision over Jacob Myers after Armstrong trailed 6-2.

Those tight matches won by Armstrong and Stanton got the Sunnyside crowd going and helped build momentum from the start.

“Really the wrestler of the meet, Carlitos Stanton, he beat the Reno champ,” Leon said. “He wrestled that guy (Cannon) and it was a blowout. We turned that thing all the way around and I’m really proud of him and his effort.”

The leadership and talent of Rivera and Fragoso proved valuable for Sunnyside because each of them turned the tide against Ponderosa after the Mustangs won consecutive matches.

Rivera won by fall in 3:00 at 152 pounds against Nolan Stricker, and Fragoso, normally a wrestler at 190 pounds, wrestled at 215 against Blaine Kubasta and came up strong with a 3-1 decision.

“They didn’t have a 190 so they bumped me up and I asked my coach (Leon) if I could bump up, so I went up to 215 and got the win,” said Fragoso, the defending state champ at 182 pounds who made it to the 182-pound title match at Reno.

“My coach let me (go up a weight class) in front of my community right here. It was a loud crowd. I loved it. They got behind me. In front of my family, my biggest supporters, I love them. I did it because of them.”

Rivera, in a quest for his third state title this season, has committed to wrestle at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy, upon graduation.  

“Everything about the atmosphere, everything about Sunnyside and hosting this big wrestling dual, was amazing,” Rivera said. “The fans, our team, our coaches, our school, our community, we all came together. We were prepped to take on Ponderosa. We were really excited for this.”

The programs are slated to meet again next year at Ponderosa, which is located in a Denver suburb.

The results from Wednesday:

108 — Sean Archuleta, Sunnyside, won by forfeit.

113 — Sergio Vega, Sunnyside, won by fall in 1:46 against Ponderosa’s DJ Wince.

122 — James Armstrong, Sunnyside, defeated Jacob Meyers by a 9-8 decision.

128 — Carlos Stanton, Sunnyside, defeated Brandon Cannon by a 7-5 decision.

134 — Cristian Rivera, Sunnyside, won by technical fall (17-2 score) over Jesse Hinkle.

140 — Jacob Bostleman, Ponderosa, defeated Ayden Bostick by a 3-1 decision.

146 — Ty Eise, Ponderosa, won by technical fall (15-0) over Victor Gonzalez.

152 — Jaime Rivera, Sunnyside, won by fall in 3:00 against Nolan Stricker.

159 — Murphy Menke, Ponderosa, defeated Job Lee by a 7-6 decision.

167 — Karter Johnson, Ponderosa, defeated Michael Avelar by a 6-3 decision.

175 — Sunnyside’s Nico Pina won by forfeit.

190 — Sunnyside’s Rene Bostick won by forfeit.

215 — Rene Fragoso, Sunnyside, defeated Blaine Kubasta by a 3-1 decision.

HVT — Kubasta won by fall in the first period over Roman Canez.


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. 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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