Mountain Pointe Wrestling Coach Greg Dayoob is one of many who have come to realize many don’t appreciate something until it’s nearly taken away or gone altogether.
His ability to run the team’s practice was something he missed last season. His ability to teach at the school was also gone. The bond he began growing three years ago with his wrestlers continued to grow, but without his physical presence.
There were few moments in which Dayoob ever feared for his life, but in the back of his mind he knew that, too, was at risk. He said it’s opened his eyes and has allowed him to find a new appreciation for everything.
“I’m thankful, but I think appreciative is the right word,” Dayoob said. “I appreciate this team. I appreciate my job and my colleagues I teach with. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and live and find things that bring me joy like this.
“They’re all gifts, and when you get reminded that everything can be taken away, you have a whole new appreciation for it all. I hope I never lose that.”
Dayoob was diagnosed with stage 1 colon cancer in August 2019. Just two months later, doctors discovered tumors on the right side of his liver.
He was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer and began chemotherapy treatments immediately. He was forced to step away from his teaching position at the school and as head coach of the wrestling program. Mark Caliendo, an assistant, took over the program in Dayoob’s absence.
Dayoob reacted well to chemotherapy treatments. In January 2020, he had a procedure to remove the tumors. In the process, doctors found another small tumor on the left side of his liver, but it was removed without any additional problems. Blood tests in the weeks after the surgery found no signs of cancer. He officially entered remission.
“I teared up,” Dayoob said of his return to the wrestling program. “It was one of those rare occasions where I didn’t have anything to say. The team gave me a massive group hug and not much was said other than them telling me they loved me and missed me. It was nice to be back.”
Dayoob’s return to the classroom was short lived due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered schools last March. Additional delays to the wrestling program’s ability to practice throughout the summer further delayed his return to the team.
It wasn’t until September he was able to walk through the doors of the wrestling room and face his wrestlers for the first time in nearly a year. With masks on, the team embraced their coach. It was an emotional moment for all of those involved.
“As much as I loved having my dad coach, this is coach Dayoob’s program,” senior Kyle Caliendo said. “Just to see him again, it was special. You never know what to think when someone close to you is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
“It’s nice to have him back.”
Caliendo is one of the captains of this year’s Pride team. Wrestling at the 160-pound class, he aims to follow in the footsteps of 2020 graduate David Palosika, who represented the Pride at state in the 220-pound class before going on to wrestle at Arizona State.
He’s spent all four years wrestling for the Pride, and three with Dayoob. While he holds himself to high standards, he’s appreciative of having the opportunity to wrestle at all this season.
Especially given the uncertainty posed by the pandemic.
“It’s hard to say what expectations I have, especially in a year like this with COVID,” Caliendo said. “I just want to see people be successful in their own way.”
Chase Beyer, a junior with the program, was also named a captain this year. A strong wrestler, he’s also the top-rated student in the junior class at Mountain Pointe academically. Dayoob jokes he expects to receive a shoutout from Beyer should he be named valedictorian next year as a senior.
While he acknowledges his academic success, he hopes to do the same on the mat. He constantly compares himself to the likes of rival Desert Vista, Desert Ridge and other strong programs in the East Valley and state.
He strives for perfection and hopes to make a name for himself in the 132-pound weight class this season.
“I want to be the No. 1 wrestler in the state,” Beyer said. “I kind of have to compare myself to all the other wrestlers and always strive to do my best.”
Like Caliendo, Beyer cherishes the moment Dayoob was able to return to the team. He’s been able to build a strong bond with the coach, much like the rest of those in the program.
“It was just like old times when he came back,” Beyer said. “He seemed like he was home. The team feels complete with him here.”
Mountain Pointe’s wrestling season is scheduled to start on Jan. 23 against Highland. It will be the first time in nearly two years Dayoob is able to coach his team in a match. It’s another opportunity to create memories he admittedly once took for granted.
“I don’t mean to come back to the word, but I just have a new appreciation for everything,” Dayoob said. “The teachers, this school, the athletic training staff keeping us safe during this crazy time, all of it.”