The typical successful wrestler has been on the mat for years, has wrestled a ton of matches outside of the regular season and has a refined set of skills honed over countless hours of drilling.
And then there is Travis Calloway.
The Perry 170-pound sophomore started wrestling two years ago and was a .500 wrestler as a freshman varsity competitor. But there was something Perry coach Darren Johnson picked up on in his short time with the program.
“Every time he walks off the mat, he gets better,” Johnson said. “If he loses to someone, he usually comes back and beats them the next time. He keeps getting better and fast. We kind of threw him to the wolves last year, and now he is better for it.”
That certainly seemed to be the case Saturday when he was the first wrestler at the Division I, Section III sectional tournament at Desert Vista to break the blue wall known as Sunnyside wrestling.
Calloway used a takedown in the final 30 seconds to beat Sunnyside’s Matt Rees, 10-9, for the sectional title and top four seed at next week’s state tournament.
Before Calloway’s win, Sunnyside took the championship in the first nine weight classes to make it hard for anyone else to find the top of the podium. The Blue Devils had nine champions, one runner-up and four third-place finishers to possibly set up the state’s most historic program with its first state title since 2013.
Calloway lost the lead in the third period before digging deep to earn the win.
“They are a really good wrestling school and I just wanted to wrestle my best,” said Calloway, who is 35-8 on the season. “Being a sectional champion is incredible. I go out there like it is a fight, give it my all and hope I get the victory.”
Calloway’s win started a string of champions for area schools as Desert Vista’s Brendan Gill (182), Chad Porter (195) and heavyweight Brett Johnson won titles.
“I was extremely disappointed in how I did last year,” said Gill, who is now a three-time state qualifier. “I knew I had to step up if I wanted to do what I wanted. I am not getting ahead of myself. I still have to get better before next week.”
Desert Vista advanced 10 and finished second with 179.5 points to Sunnyside’s 256.5.
Cesar Chavez was third followed by Hamilton and Perry to round out the top five, while Dobson was seventh in the 10-team tournament.
“Sectionals are balanced out and hopefully the right kids are going,” Thunder coach David Gonzales said. “We have a good group going. We will see what we can do.”
Local runners-up were Dobson’s Steve Smith (113), Desert Vista’s Jordan Martinez (120), Preston Cameau (152), Brett Johnson (220), Perry’s Tannor Calloway (126) and Hamilton’s Donovan Corn (182).
In Division I, Section I Mountain View won the team title with 204.5 points and six champions, while Kofa, Desert Ridge and Red Mountain rounded out the top four.
In Division I, Section IV Corona ran away with it as the Aztecs scored 244.5 points and advanced 13 wrestlers to state including eight champions.
Tucson, Basha and Chandler, which wrestled without expected state champion Jason Holmes, rounded out the top four.
In Division I, Section II Highland had the highest finish in sixth place and five placers.
In Division II Queen Creek won the Section IV team title with 256 points and seven champions, while Williams Field was second with 219 and Campo Verde was third with 144.
In Division III, Section II action Combs had the best finish in third place with Marcos de Niza in seventh.
Area champions were Combs' Jadon Barber (126), Andrew (152) and Alejandro Torres (160) of Marco de Niza and Taylor Vargas (138) of Apache Junction
In Division IV, Section III the top area team was Arizona College Prep, which finished third with Casteel, wrestling with just freshman and sophomores, was seventh, as the Colts had the only local champion in 220-pounder Diego Torres.
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