Air Force commit Avelar one of three Sunnyside wrestlers leading education camp for underprivileged kids

The Sunnyside wrestling dynasty has another NCAA Division I wrestler on the way — Class of 2023 standout Michael Avelar, who committed to the Air Force Academy on Thursday — and he is already giving back to the community while still in high school.

Avelar (a 4.0 GPA Honors/Advance Placement student), recent United States Military Academy West Point signee Jaime Rivera Jr., and two-time state champion and world-class wrestler Audrey Jimenez are conducting an educational camp at Sunnyside this Tuesday through Saturday that is targeted for underprivileged youths.

The standout Sunnyside wrestlers are partnering with the Arizona Counsel on Economic Education for the event. The camp, called Counting Takedowns, involves students kindergarten through 12th grade that includes seminars on economic topics taught by the Arizona Counsel on Economic Education in addition to training on the mat with Avelar, Rivera and Jimenez, all of whom have a 4.0 GPA.

Avelar, who won the 165-pound state title in February when Sunnyside achieved its 35th state championship, will continue a long list of Blue Devil wrestlers who have advanced to the highest level of college wrestling.

The recent group since the 2017-18 school year includes Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), Jesse Ybarra and Sebastian Robles (Iowa), Anthony Echemendia (Ohio State), Rivera (United States Military Academy West Point) and Rene Fragoso (Arizona State).

Michael Avelar will be headed to Air Force in 2023-24 on a wrestling scholarship (Avelar photo)

Avelar’s father Rick Jr. is a retired associate head football coach at Walden Grove and his brother Rick III played football for the Red Wolves before attending Dayton on a scholarship. He is a linebacker for the Flyers who is slated to play this fall after redshirting last season as a freshman.

Counting Takedowns is part of a fellowship Jimenez, Avelar and Rivera received through the Dragon Kim Foundation, a California-based nonprofit operation with this mission statement: “To inspire our youth to impact their communities while discovering and pursuing their passions.”

A community event is planned on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sunnyside on the last day of Counting Takedowns to highlight the significance of this project led by Jimenez, Avelar and Rivera.

The Dragon Kim Foundation was founded in 2015 by Grace and Daniel Kim and named in honor of their 14-year-old son Dragon, who was killed along with a friend when a massive tree branch fell on their tent during a camping trip. Dragon was passionate about music, athletics, learning, and community service. He could play 10 instruments and loved helping to teach music to younger children. Dragon attended high school at the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), where he played in three ensembles, studied jazz, discovered a love for math, economics, and physics, and was very active in athletics, playing goalie for his water polo team, and pursuing a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Dragon benefitted from having a well-rounded educational experience. He felt all kids deserved this and wanted to provide opportunities for others to learn and grow. After his passing, the Dragon Kim Foundation continues his legacy, carrying on his love of life and learning, making it possible for youth to pursue interests in areas in which Dragon himself was passionate, and helping give others the access to a bright future. Our programs strive to bring to life Dragon’s dream of helping kids learn and serve their community, as well as support youth programs in academics, athletics, and the arts The Dragon Kim Foundation

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