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High schools countdown: Cienega's Gabe Levy has sights set on 1,000 yards
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High school football countdown

High schools countdown: Cienega's Gabe Levy has sights set on 1,000 yards

Wrestling makes Levy a better running back.

Cienega's Gabe Levy (5) sidesteps his way over Sunnyslope's Ashton Yurkiw (13) as he bulls inside the Viking five in the second quarter of their first round game in the 5A State Championships, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2019.

Editor’s note: The Star is counting down the 22 best high school football players in Southern Arizona.

Name: Gabe Levy

The rundown: Levy is a 5-foot-11-inch, 190-pound senior at Cienega High School.

Who he is: Ask any high school football coach whether they want players wrestling during the offseason, and there’s a good chance most — if not all — will say yes.

Football players who wrestle typically learn hand techniques and build strength. Most are linemen or defensive players.

Cienega coach Pat Nugent couldn’t recall a running back ever wrestling before Levy, who was the state runner-up in his weight class.

“Gabe is a beast. … He’s gotten bigger, stronger, faster and is just an absolute animal,” Nugent said. “He’s going to run over you instead of around you. He’s so strong and physical and that’s his mentality. He breaks tackles and it’s tough to break him down.”

The elements of wrestling have improved Levy’s overall skillset as a running back.

“Wrestling helps me a lot with balance, conditioning, teaching me to shrug off tackles and stabilize when I get hit after contact so I stay on my feet,” Levy said.

Levy started the 2019 season playing linebacker and running back before moving exclusively to offense. In 11 games, Levy rushed for 982 yards and seven touchdowns.

Levy said although he performed at a high level as a junior, his “biggest weakness was not catching out of the backfield.”

During the offseason, Levy met with Cienega quarterback Ryan Swoger and other skill-position players to work on running routes and pass-catching.

The hard-nosed runner hopes to become a versatile weapon for the Bobcats and finally break 1,000 yards, which hasn’t been done by a Cienega running back since Francisco Dicochea in 2014.

“Last year was a decent season, we still need to work on some things, but I feel like this year will be a whole lot better,” Levy said. “I definitely could’ve rushed for over a 1,000 yards; I just needed to work on a couple things. … I’m just hoping I could rush for 1,000 yards.”

Proof he’s good: Levy was named the Star’s Player of the Week following his performance against Rincon/University on Sept. 20, 2019. Against the Rangers, Levy rushed for 145 yards and touchdowns on just seven carries. Levy currently holds scholarship offers from Washburn, Sioux Falls and the University of Mary.

Cienega’s Gabe Levy (5) wrestles during the offseason, learning skills that help him run over — and not around — defenders.

He said it: “I don’t even know if we knew who he was as a freshman, and he’s just developed. We always looked at him as a wrestler-type kid, but in the last two years, he’s been one of our stars. … He’s got an opportunity to be a great player.” — Nugent.

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Justin writes stories and produces digital content about UA football and basketball and high school football. A Tucson native, Justin graduated from the UA in 2017 and is the host of the Wildcast Podcast and a radio host on ESPN Tucson.

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