Bobby DeBerry, left, made his mark at Sunnyside High School, where he coached the wrestling team to 15 state titles in 17 years. Now he's the coach at Tucson High School.


Tucson High School wrestling coach Bobby DeBerry didn't need long to answer when a group of parents approached him about becoming the Badgers' full-time coach in February.

Talk to DeBerry for a few minutes, and it's clear why he decided to take control of the program after serving as interim coach for the second half of last season.

He retired from Sunnyside - where he won 15 state championships in 17 seasons - after the 2010-11 season. Then, after moving to Tucson High to work as an intervention specialist, he took over as interim coach last year when the Badgers needed a midseason replacement for Rich Ortiz.

Now he's back in a full-time coaching gig just over a year after announcing his retirement - thanks to some pushing from the group of parents.

"We didn't give him much of a choice," said Diana Amado, one of the parents that approached DeBerry about the full-time opening. "We wanted him to do it."

So what brought DeBerry back to coaching after less than a year away, especially to a program without much of a track record of success? Amado said DeBerry "didn't want to let these kids down," but DeBerry offered a simpler explanation.

"I like teaching, and there's so much to teach," he said. "I think it's fun. It's intriguing to see what we can do with the kids that are here."

But DeBerry doesn't see Tucson turning into the perennial power that Sunnyside was - at least not in the immediate future. DeBerry said a large part of Sunnyside's success was having elementary and middle schools on board with the wrestling program, whether it be practice regimens or camps.

While that line of thinking is starting to take hold at Tucson, DeBerry said it takes a while for a program to permeate an area.

"That's something that takes years to build," DeBerry said. "You can't fake that."

Amado, who has a son on the team, said DeBerry's coaching and experience are already starting to create noticeable changes.

The Badgers had three wrestlers make the state tournament after DeBerry took over midseason last year, and Amado said she could notice an obvious change in the team's demeanor after DeBerry took over.

"It's wonderful to have someone with that experience and history," Amado said. "The kids respect him. They talk to him during school. It's just like a light switch. … These kids are happy now."

And when DeBerry decides to (really) retire from coaching, he said he's not going to miss competing for state titles and winning matches. Instead, it'll be missing out on the day-to-day grind that will take some getting used to.

"When I give this up for good, I'm not going to miss matches," he said.

"I'm going to miss practice and getting ready. Working with these guys, it's been a lot of fun."

2012 watch list

• Scott Freibaum, Sr., Marana

• T.J. Gudeman, Sr., Cienega

• Joey Howard, Jr., Ironwood Ridge

• Bailey Janis, Sr., Mountain View

• Erik Jeong, Sr., Rio Rico

• Mark Lopez, Sr., Rio Rico

• Juaquin Olivas, So., Sunnyside

• Jorge Robles, Sr., Sahuarita

• Tate Sandifer, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Troy Taylor, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

Note: Selections made by Star staff in consultation with area coaches