Sunnyside celebrates state-title ring ceremony with victories over Rincon/UHS & Marana

Sunnyside’s wrestlers celebrate with their championship rings from last year’s team and individual titles (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Sunnyside coach Anthony Leon has so many championship rings now through his coaching career and his time as a wrestler that he feels compelled to share the Blue Devils’ 2021-22 state title ring with his father.

Three-time Sunnyside state champ Rene Fragoso, a freshman at Arizona State, has a room devoted to his trophies and championship rings at his Tucson home now that he’s gone to Tempe. He said his mother will receive this year’s set of the individual and team state championship rings to add to the collection.

“I’ll give them to my mom and let her place them where she wants in the trophy room,” Fragoso said.

Spoken like a member of one of the most impressive dynasties in the history of this state.

Leon, Fragoso and other members of the 2021-22 team took part in the state championship ring ceremony on Wednesday night at Sunnyside — a celebration that’s taken place 35 times now, including five consecutive years.

“It’s awesome, the whole thing’s awesome, but tonight we’re focused on winning dual meets,” Leon said in between the dominant victories over Rincon/University and Marana. “Last year’s team was special — eight state champions — it’s going to be really hard to duplicate that. But I’m glad these kids have their moment.

“Their families are here and to see the guys come back from different universities, it’s awesome.”

Sunnyside is coming off the challenging Battle of the Best event at Colorado Springs, Colo., last weekend in which the Blue Devils went 6-2 in dual meets with the losses to powers Buchanon of Clovis, Calif., Pomona of Arvada, Colo.

Sunnyside’s girls team competed against Rincon/University and Marana on Wednesday night. Jaylene Alfaro for Sunnyside was a winner (Photos by Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Jaime Rivera Sr., father of former Sunnyside standout Jaime Rivera Jr., who is now wrestling at the U.S. West Point Academy, describes the action of Blue Devil wrestling matches on the Sunnyside Wrestling Academy Facebook page. Rivera’s son Cristian is a 144-pound junior who won a state title last year with the Blue Devils.

“We’re constantly looking to push ourselves and challenge ourselves, and I think we did that,” Leon said of the experience at Colorado Springs. “We’re going to Reno (Nevada Tournament of Champions) here in a week and a half and we’re looking forward to that.

“Ultimately, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, getting better and focusing on the things we can focus on.”

Leon added that what he likes the most about this year’s team is their coachability because of the experience of the returners like Mike Avelar (165 pounds), Cristian Rivera (150), Carlos Stanton (131), Sergio Vega (125) and James Armstrong (120) and the maturity of the newcomers such as freshmen Francisco Miranda at 106 pounds and Zayne Candelaria at 285. Audrey Jimenez, one of the top female wrestlers in the nation, also partakes in dual meets with the boys at 106 pounds.

“Mostly, I just like the way these guys wrestle and how they rally around each other,” Leon said. “They make wrestling fun and they make watching wrestling fun.”

Year after year, Sunnyside is deemed the favorite to win another state championship. This year is no different. The expectations are high.

The wrestlers hear all the talk about upholding a dynasty. They are again expected to deliver.

“It starts with our work, with our practices,” said Avelar, who will wrestle for the Air Force Academy. “No one trains like us. No one has coaches like us. We preach that every single day. … No one can go with us. Right when we step on the mat, all of the kids really believe that no one can step on the mat with us. We’re the best in the state.”


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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