As Armando Delgado walked across the mat for the final time at Desert Vista High’s gymnasium, he couldn’t help but think all he had accomplished in four years.
“It feels like I completed something, the next step in my life,” Delgado said. “I’ve paid my dues. I’ve had a lot of fun and trials and tribulations with my brothers. I feel like it’s paid off.”
Delgado’s hand was raised by the referee on Senior Night, signaling that he had won his match, although it wasn’t an ideal victory in his eyes.
The Thunder’s final home match of the season was against rival Mountain Pointe. Delgado, who competes in the 195-pound weight class, didn’t have an opponent to wrestle and was awarded the victory by forfeit. It was among many victories for the Thunder, who defeated Mountain Pointe, 63-12, to improve to 12-0 in duals.
“To see everyone win, even though I didn’t put in as much effort as everyone else, it was great to go out there and get my hand raised,” Delgado said.
Delgado and the 12 other seniors on the team were honored before the match. Joined by his father, Eduardo, and mother, Polina, as well as his two brothers, Delgado received cheers from the crowd as his plans for the future were announced.
“At this point it’s football,” Delgado said. “I’ve grown to love wrestling but now it’s my time to move on with football and continue my journey there.”
A two-year starting linebacker for the Desert Vista football team, Delgado’s recruitment has heated up since the Thunder went 10-2 and reached the 6A quarterfinals.
He recently took an official visit to Black Hills State University, a Division II school in South Dakota. In addition to an offer from the Yellow Jackets, Delgado has offers from seven other programs, including Colorado State-Pueblo.
CSU-Pueblo has caught Delgado’s attention but he still is receiving interest from Division I FCS schools. His decision likely will come in February during the national signing period that begins Feb. 6.
For now, Delgado is trying to focus on finishing the wrestling season strong. The state tournament begins Feb. 8.
“He proves that you can start as a freshman and do amazing things as long as you have competitive drive, heart and the willingness to learn,” Desert Vista wrestling coach Dave Gonzalez said. “When he was a freshman he came out and never wrestled before. He asked to go to a varsity tournament and from then on he was hooked and wanted to do some amazing things.”
Just about every senior on the team has been with the program all four years, growing and training together. They’ve been successful together, especially this season. Seeing each honored on Senior Night was a bittersweet moment for Gonzalez.
“They’re winners,” Gonzalez said. “Any time you have a big group of seniors you hope they leave a legacy for the next group. These guys are doing that.”
That legacy includes numerous first-place finishes at state and national tournaments, including Delgado’s recent win at the Flowing Wells Invitational, his second there in two years.
Brett Johnson, a 285-pound wrestler and standout defensive tackle at Desert Vista, also won at Flowing Wells as did Alfonso Martinez in the 140-pound class.
Behind the leadership of Delgado and his fellow seniors, Desert Vista appears ready to make a run at the state title. It would be the school’s first in wrestling, something Gonzalez wants them to accomplish given their experience and depth of talent.
Delgado shares that motivation.
“It’s been an honor,” Delgado said. “My classmates push me academically. I have always tried to keep up with them intellectually. Then going on the field or the mat -- it’s a strong bond.
“We’re a family here.”