The Peoria Invitational “Tournament of Champions” has been around for 49 years. Only twice had a wrestler pulled off what Juaqin Olivas accomplished Saturday night.
Olivas, a Tucson Sunnyside senior, claimed the 132-pound title at Peoria High, becoming just the third four-time champion in tournament history.
“It makes me feel pretty good,” Olivas said. “It makes me feel really good to be the third one in 49 years.”
The honor didn’t come easy.
Olivas’ match against Alamosa (Colo.) High’s Tel Kelley went back and forth, with both wrestlers racking up points and seemingly feeding off each other’s energy.
Kelley earned a point for an escape to make it 7-7 with less than 30 seconds remaining, but then Olivas, who previously won Peoria titles at 106, 113 and 120 pounds, scored one final takedown to claim victory.
“I was just trying to stay in position,” Olivas said. “I was waiting for one of his mistakes, and luckily I found one. I caught him right on it and I was able to take him down.”
Sunnyside finished second in the team competition with 207.5 points. California power Anaheim Servite bulldozed the rest of the field, getting three individual champions and winning the team title with 299.5 points.
The only pin of Saturday’s championship rounds came at 152 pounds, when Glendale Deer Valley junior Jake Swift got Servite’s Angel Cordova with two seconds left in the second period.
Swift had controlled the match the whole way and was leading 17-9 when he put Cordova’s back on the mat.
“That wasn’t even in my mind, honestly,” Swift said of going for the pin. “It was coming to the end of the second period and I was just thinking, ‘OK, I’m really tired, my muscles hurt and I just got to try to get this guy on his back and rack up some more points.’ And once I got him on his back I just squeezed as hard as I could and got it.”
Swift, who said he hasn’t been defeated since the seventh grade — a streak of 108 matches, by his count — was named one of the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestlers, along with 106-pound champion Roman Bravo-Young of Sunnyside and 220-pound champ Danny Reyes of Phoenix Barry Goldwater.
Saturday’s other champions included: Brandon Courtney, Goodyear Desert Edge (113 pounds); Alex Carrillo, Phoenix Desert Vista (120); Noah Blakley, Servite (126); Owen Lawrie, Las Vegas Faith Lutheran (138); Matteo Ambriz, Windsor (Colo.) (145); Austin Moyer, Mesa Westwood (160); Chad Porter, Desert Vista (170); Michael Vasquez, Servite (182); Jeremiah Imonode, Desert Vista (195); VJ Leuta, Servite (heavyweight).