When Jeremiah Imonode steps into the Desert Vista wrestling room each day, he knows what’s waiting for him.

A slimmed down and quicker Alex Bambic, who happens to be a two-time state champion focused on winning a third to end his career, and junior Tristan Ezell, who is driven to earn his first medal at the state meet.

Outsiders may question how Imonode, who transferred from Horizon, ended up at Desert Vista, but inside the blue padded walls, it is clear.

“We work each other and keep pushing,” Imonode said. “There will be days were we get close to fighting, but that’s alright because we know if we are doing it right there is going to be some of that.”

It’s the way of a wrestling room.

The best way to get better on a daily basis is directly related to locking up with the best competitor in the room. Lock up with and grind each day against the best and then when the actual competition comes along it is a step down compared to what was faced in practice every day.

Imonode, a sophomore, was last seen going 0-2 in the state tournament after earning the No. 2 seed at 182. It was a disappointing end to the season and with his brother, Sampson, off to West Point, he was looking for a new environment.

He wanted to be tested every day. It’s not a statement against the Horizon program, which has flourished in recent year under Ben Wick’s guidance, but it is hard to top what the Thunder can offer.

More specifically there is Bambic, a three-time state placer and two-time champion, who missed his calling in Hollywood as the Incredible Shrinking Kid or the cash that come with being a spokesperson for one of the main weight-loss companies.

As a freshman and sophomore, Bambic competed at 215 pounds as he took fifth as freshman and won it as a sophomore. Last year, with the new weight classes in place, Bambic dropped to 195 but his winning percentage didn’t as he won another state title.

Now he is at 182 and it has opened up a new look for Bambic, who doesn’t have any official college offers but is waiting to see if he gets accepted to West Point Prep Academy, as he attempts to become the second three-time champion for Desert Vista, tying former teammate Robbie Mathers.

“He is going to find a different style and this is all about preparing himself for next year (in college),” Thunder coach David Gonzalez said. “He is quicker and he will need to be because he is going to come across different types of athletes at 182, compared to the heavier weights.

“He has put in the work and should benefit from it.”

Bambic and Ezell will also benefit from Imonode’s presence as well. Now that he has dropped from 182 to 170 he has lost some of the freshman “baby fat” but has kept his physical style. As a freshman last year, he took some of the competition by surprise but that’s not going to happen this year.

“I had a good year, but I need to be more technically sound,” he said. “I need to get better and this is a place to do it.”

Imonode beat Ezell 7-3 in the sectional finals a year ago, but now they compete on a daily basis with Bambic mixed in to create a triple threat at the back end of the team’s lineup as Ezell, who is stellar with upper-body throws, bumped to 195.

“They’re going to make each other better,” Gonzalez said. “It’s what you need in a wrestling room to get the (culture) where it needs to be successful. It’s a good situation.”


• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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