Sunnyside High School wrestling coach Anthony Leon and athletic director Casey O’Brien successfully won their appeal Monday with the Arizona Interscholastic Association to allow senior Audrey Jimenez to wrestle against boys, including in the state tournament.
In the AIA Executive Board meeting in Phoenix, the 11 board members approved Jimenez and Phoenix Desert Vista sophomore Everest Leydecker to participate with their respective boys wrestling program this school year.
Jimenez and Leydecker will be eligible for postseason participation in the boy’s wrestling division.
In an Executive Board meeting in the spring, the AIA changed a bylaw and prevented girls from wrestling boys if their school had a girls wrestling team.
Although Sunnyside’s girls wrestling program is emerging as one of the best in the state, Jimenez is a world-class wrestler who will be more challenged competing against boys.
Jimenez, 17, won the silver medal in the 50 kg weight class in the U20 World Championships in Jordan.
She has not wrestled yet this fall because she is rehabilitating a minor knee injury suffered during the U23 World Championships at Albania in October. She also earned a silver medal at that event after having to pull out because of the injury.
She is now a four-time age-group medalist with three silver medals and one bronze.
She is the No. 1 pound-for-pound female wrestler in the country as rated by USA Wrestling, Flowrestling and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Among Jimenez’s many other accomplishments:
2022-23 USA Today HSSA Girls Wrestler of the Year
2021-22 & 2022-23 Ranked No. 1 in girls’ high school pound-for-pound rankings
2023 Gran Prix of Spain bronze medalist (50kg) representing Team USA.
2023 US Open champion (50 kg)
2023 U20 World Team Trials champion (50 kg)
2023 AIA girls state champion (114 pounds)
2022 U20 World silver medalist (50 kg)
2022 U17 World teamer (49 kg)
2022 AIA girls state champion (106 pounds)
2021 U17 World bronze medalist (49 kg)
2021 AIA girls state champion (113 pounds)
Sunnyside’s girls wrestling team placed first in the recent William Bell Invitational at Pueblo. The Blue Devils also defeated defending state champion Liberty last week in a midweek, daytime, outdoor meet at Sunnyside’s football field.
The boys’ program, one of the top high school dynasties in any sport nationally, will compete for its 37th state championship in February.
The Blue Devils’ boys team is in Reno this weekend for the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions.
Leon mentioned that Jimenez will not compete in Reno but plans to be on the mat when Sunnyside competes in the Mile High Challenge at Prescott Valley.
She won her second consecutive title in the Mile High Challenge against male competition last year.
Jimenez earned the 106-pound title also against males in the 56th Annual Peoria Tournament of Champions at Peoria High School. She is the first female champ in the event’s history.
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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. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.