Former Sunnyside wrestler Sam Portillo decided to stay at Amphitheater for several reasons but says the decision was a tough one.


It's a question Sam Portillo can't seem to avoid:

Why didn't you take the Sunnyside coaching job?

The Amphitheater coach and former Sunnyside wrestler said he's had to stop going out because he hears it so much. Even Orson Lor, one of his former wrestlers at Amphi, emailed him from Argentina to find out if he was leaving.

"I said, 'No, I want to be loyal to these kids' and he emails me back saying, 'Isn't it being loyal to go help out your high school you came from?' " Portillo said.

"I mean that's a kid from Amphi, a state champion for me, basically telling me to go. He gave me the green light."

Even with the all clear from one of his best, Portillo chose to stay at Amphi. "I'm having a lot of fun here, trying to build my own program and be my own man," Portillo said.

Here are three more reasons Portillo stayed with the Panthers:

1. He didn't have the heart to say goodbye. Senior Austin Andrade said he was concerned his team was losing its coach.

"He told us he didn't have the heart to do that," Andrade said. "I'm glad he stayed because he knows a lot about wrestling and being a man."

Portillo admitted he couldn't have abandoned his team.

"I couldn't look myself in the face saying bye to these guys," the sixth-year coach said.

Senior 198-pounder Floyd Jones said he's happy Portillo stayed and that he sees him as more than just a coach.

"I see him as a father figure, too," Jones said. "He's always there checking on us, talks to us and keeps us in line.

"Him being head coach and being a father figure is one of the rarest things you could ever find in high school."

2. He feels at home. Although his program doesn't have the same tradition, resources and funding as some other programs, Portillo is comfortable where he is.

"It's real laid-back here," Portillo said. "The faculty is awesome, the administration is awesome and I have a great AD and great principal that work with me and work with our kids."

Plus, he enjoys the challenge of coaching at Amphi.

"The difference between us and Sunnyside is that I have to go look for kids to wrestle as opposed to a winning tradition there," Portillo said. "That's the whole thing about coaching for me, getting that raw kid and turning him into a champion."

3. The timing wasn't right. Portillo, 42, said that had the offer come at a better time he may have considered the job more. He said he was offered the job during the first week of school and didn't feel comfortable leaving at that time.

He still wishes the Blue Devils the best and hopes the new coach, Anthony Leon, can continue the winning tradition.

"If I had enough time, I probably would have taken that job," Portillo said.

"I still bleed blue, straight up."

Portillo admitted there is a possibility that he could end up at Sunnyside in the future.

"I love where I come from. I'm proud of where I come from and if that time does come and there's an opportunity for me to fill that spot at Sunnyside, I might take it," Portillo said.

"But it's day by day, and right now I'm here and I'm a Panther."

Watch list

Connor Buette Sr. IR

Alvaro Gallego Sr. PUE

Cedric Gonzalez Sr. SS

Victor Haro Sr. TUC

Floyd Jones Sr. AMP

Raul Moraga Jr. SS

Jonathan Rascon Sr. CHO

Cristian Sanchez Sr. CIEN

Tate Sandifer Jr. IR

Trevor Willson Sr. IR

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