Past, present and future: San Manuel Wrestling celebrated

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SM Wrestling – Past, Present and Future. Kelli Luberda | Miner

San Manuel Miner

Past, present, and future Miners’ wrestlers were honored at San Manuel’s Wrestling Banquet last Thursday night. In addition to recognizing and awarding the current members of the Miners’ wrestling team, the 2004 State Championship team was honored, including members of the coaching staff – Hall of Fame coach Manny Yubeta and coach PJ Ponce. San Manuel Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Al Trejo received an award for 20 years of service in the Miners’ wrestling program. San Manuel Jr. High Wrestlers were also present as were members of the Comets wrestling club.

“This is a program that entails the small ones all the way to the tall ones,” Mr. Trejo said to begin the night’s festivities.

Current Miners head coach Daniel Najera was joined by members of his coaching staff, including assistants Amanda Trejo and Josh Giles as they hosted the awards banquet.

The evening was more than just an award ceremony; it was a recollection of the strong history and tradition of the San Manuel wrestling program and a commitment from current coaches and wrestlers to make sure it continues.

“Growing up here and wrestling for Coach Yubeta, Coach Ponce, and Mr. Trejo; it’s more than just a job,” Najera answered when asked what it’s like to lead a program so rich in tradition. “I want to see the program succeed and go on because I’ve also wrestled here. It means a lot, it’s a passionate job. I love doing it, I love being around the kids, and watching them be successful.”

Those who were in attendance witnessed the number of wrestlers – small to tall – at the banquet. The passion and pride they feel to be a part of the Miners’ wrestling program was evident. It’s part of the reason why the coaches remain so committed to the wrestlers.

“I have to give back to the community what was given to me,” Mr. Trejo said. “We have kids that need leadership and mentorship and that’s why (the wrestling program is special to me).”

The current wrestlers are more than familiar with the championship history at San Manuel and they want to continue the tradition started by champions like PJ Ponce.

“It means a lot, especially seeing all the state champs,” freshman Franky Renteria said about being a part of the rich history at the school. “It drives me to be a state champ like them. It makes me feel good to, hopefully, be as good as them and fill their shoes.”

Colten Smith, a multi-time state champion himself, is leaving a legacy at the school like few others before him. He considers it an honor to be in the same group as some of the other legendary Miners’ wrestlers. To the younger wrestlers who were at the banquet, Colten is to them what PJ Ponce is to him.

Smith was asked what makes the history, tradition and legacy of the San Manuel wrestling program so strong over the years.

“Everyone always stays close,” Smith answered. “It’s like a big family. It doesn’t matter if you’re a state champion who wrestled in 1960 or a wrestler in 2014, it’s like a brotherhood. It never goes away.”

There were several awards handed out last Thursday, including most take downs, most pins, and most reversals, to name a few. But the highlight of the banquet may have been the announcing of the Paper Plate Awards. Those awards were distributed by Assistant coach Amanda Trejo and eagerly anticipated by the wrestlers. Here is a breakdown of those awards:

Transformer Award – Jacob Christian, Hunger Games Tribute Award – Franky Renteria, Best Haircut Award – Frankie Tamayo, Most Likely to Look Good Award – Francisco Medina, The Turtle Award – Miguel Gonzalez, The License to Practice Medicine Award – Colten Smith, Most Likely to Make You LOL Award – Ricky Najera, Pin Me if You Can Award – Carlos Salas, and Pushing the Limits Award – Colby Stratton.

The evening concluded with Coach Najera encouraging all the wrestlers to participate in camps during the summer. He wants them to commit to learning and perfecting wrestling moves each month until next season starts. It’s that type of commitment from the wrestlers that will carry on San Manuel’s championship wrestling history and tradition.

Andy Luberda (919 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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