Wrestling: Local kids make mat magic: 5 nat'l titles in 3rd year

2013-07-28T00:00:00Z Wrestling: Local kids make mat magic: 5 nat'l titles in 3rd yearKyle Johnson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Cyclones Wrestling Club's training mats are stitched together, a spongy quilt of different colors.

Their humble gym is tucked away in the back of an old warehouse, a fitting spot for a youth club that's dedicated to hard work and technique rather than flash and bravado.

"Anything we can gather, little by little," coach and co-founder Danny Vega Sr. said. "We don't have any direct sponsors, like Dollamur (wrestling mats) ... but what we do have is talent in the room."

And they win.

Rows of trophies line the floor, and signed posters from collegiate champions hang from the wall. The 3-year-old club has seen great success in the past. But over the last month, it finally added the pieces of hardware that have eluded it - national championships.

Roman Bravo-Young, 14, and Marcus Castillo, 13, each won titles at the ASICS Kids Freestyle and Greco-Roman National Championships in late June. And 9-year-old James "Poppy" Brown took home two titles from the meet in Orem, Utah.

Then last week in Fargo, N.D., Danny Vega, Jr. - who will be a sophomore at Ironwood Ridge - steamrolled through the 100-pound weight class at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships, winning by pin or technical superiority in every match but one.

"That's the best (feeling) ever," Bravo-Young said, "knowing you can do it and the people you help out can do it too."

The year-round club regularly trains just 10 to 15 wrestlers, ranging from 5 to 18 years old. While its members have previously won regional and state titles, including three state titles by Vega's 7-year-old son Sergio, this past month its members finally reached the highest level.

Coach and co-founder Michael Bravo said he still gets chills just thinking about it.

"I think it's rare to find kids that will give you their undivided attention and push themselves physically and mentally beyond their own capabilities, just to achieve that dream which is a national championship," said Bravo, who is Roman's grandfather.

The youngest wrestler came away with the most hardware. Brown took first in both the Greco and Freestyle competitions, and has impressed both his coaches and teammates with his dedication to the sport.

"He's just blessed as a kid," Bravo-Young said. "He's just … you'll never see another kid like this. He just has the best work ethic, everything we do, he does with us, even though he's younger. When we run, he does it too. When we lift, he lifts every morning, he trains hard.

"To see him win is the best."

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