TUCSON - Alex Bambic has lived a charmed wrestling life.
He is a two-time state champion, won at the international level and placed nationally in Fargo.
It’s why this season has been so frustrating for the Desert Vista senior. In addition to being ill, he had an injury that slowed his training and kept him out of competition. Once he returned, Bambic lost in the finals of the tough Peoria Invitational, which led to him being dropped out of the top 20 in the national rankings.
On Saturday that trend might have come to an end thanks to the Caballero.
Bambic won the 182-pound title at the Flowing Wells Invitational, which is considered the top Arizona tournament and each champion receives the coveted Caballero trophy.
“This is pretty nice,” said Bambic, who added it will be one his favorites among those in the family trophy case. “I’ve wanted one of these since my freshman year.”
He got it by beating the short and stocky Mike Clare of Corona del Sol. Clare’s build and low center of gravity make it hard for Bambic to get many quality shot opportunities, but the latter manage to beat him for the second time in four days.
“Sometimes styles don’t mix,” Thunder coach David Gonzalez said. “I talked to him about having to switch things up. There’s an adjustment that has to be made and he did enough to win it.”
Bambic finished third as a sophomore and sixth last year that came with an asterisk after being called for an illegal slam in the first round and defaulting to sixth once he placed after four straight wins.
Add this year’s difficulties and coming up short in previous years at Flowing Wells and it was going to be tough to be Bambic now that he is getting back into wrestling shape.
Bambic had two pins and a major decision before beating Highland’s John Gorrie 7-0.
“It’s been tough,” Bambic said. “I’m still trying to get where I need to be. I have a few weeks to get there (before sectionals).”
The Thunder finished eighth overall with 117 points as Sunnyside ran away with the team title with 240 points. Mesa Mountain View, which didn’t have state champion Seth Monty, was second with 169 points, and Corona del Sol was third at 160.50.
Santiago (Calif.) was fourth with 160.50 points, while short-handed Ironwood Ridge (145) was next and Chandler (134.5) had a nice showing without Dalton Brady (back).
Southeast Valley champions were Chandler’s Tristan Moran (126), Corona del Sol’s Glenn Farina (132) and Ethan Tursini (160), Queen Creek’s Hayden Moore (170), Chandler’s Drew Lattner (220) and Mesa Mountain View’s Kilisimasi (heavyweight).
Farina and Moore got there with some transformation.
Farina is a two-time state placer so he has always been a good wrestler but there has been a mentality change. He is more aggressive and more physical, which has led to him piling up a lot of points.
He won with a second-period technical fall, 17-2, over Mesa Mountain View’s Steven Mason in the finals. Overall, he had two pins and three technical falls in the tournament to improve to 30-4.
“It’s all up here,” Farina said pointing to his head. “You have to just keep pushing for more points. (The win) is a representation of all of the hard work I’ve done since the summer.”
Moore beat Mesa Mountain View’s Grant Huber 4-2 in the finals at a weight class he couldn’t fathom competing in not long ago considering at the start of the last season he was a soft 205 pounds.
“I’m eating healthy and working hard,” said Moore, who is believed to be QC’s first Flowing Wells champ. “I’m super competitive and I knew I had to do something to get better.”
The Thunder had three other placers in Matt Mathers (5th, 126), Jeremiah Imonode (4th, 170) and Tristan Ezell (6th, 195).
Imonode, who has missed quite a bit of time this year with an injury, had an interesting tournament after losing in the first round, 9-0, to Corona’s Bridger Barker. It was the second time in three days he lost as Barker won 6-4 in the dual meet on Wednesday.
The two met up again in the consolations with the winner securing a placement and the loser just missing out. It was a close match late in the third, but Imonode put Barker on his back and secured the pin.
“I told him once he came back (from an injury) it was like he was starting his season over,” Gonzalez said. “He’ll get there. Beating (Barker) was just as important mentally because he’ll probably see him again.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.