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Oscar Vega nominated for state’s Boys Wrestler of the Year award

Yuma High School’s Oscar Vega had something of a storybook ending to his high school wrestling career.

In the heavyweight’s final season on the mat he won seven tournament championships, including an historic pin in the Division III state title match that earned the Criminals their first state wrestling title in 55 years, and compiled an overall record of 66-4 with 57 takedowns.

After a season of accomplishments, Vega may have one more waiting for him. This week, the senior was nominated by AZ Central for the state’s Boys Wrestler of the Year. The winner will be announced June 10 during an awards ceremony at Arizona State’s Gammage Theater, featuring former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez as a special guest.

"I am truly honored and humbled by the nomination for state wrestler of the year,” Vega said. “It not only means a lot to me personally but, for Yuma High School, the wrestling program, the coaching staff, and my teammates.  It goes to show if you work hard and dedicate yourself, dreams can and will come true."

Vega’s 66 victories, including 37 pins, seemingly came at the most opportune times. Because Vega wrestled in the heavyweight class, he often was the final wrestler of the tournament; the anchor, so to speak. In the first dual match of the season, Vega clinched a Criminals victory over rival Kofa with a win in the final match. It was something he would do seven more times without a loss, helping the Criminals to a 46-2 record in duals during the season.

“Oscar had one of the greatest comebacks I have ever seen in the finals of the Ironwood Tourney,” Yuma head coach Jeff Welsing said. “He was down 7-2 in the third period and threw his opponent to his back to tie the score at the end of regulation. He then threw his opponent to his back in the sudden death overtime period and pinned him to win the tournament.”

Nothing, however, could top Vega’s performance in the Division III state tournament in Prescott Valley. After reaching the finals, Vega was pitted against Moon Valley’s Malik Clark, who had recorded the only pin against Vega by an opponent all season back in January and defeated him in the state tournament a year ago. This time the stakes were even higher.

“Clark had defeated Oscar in last year's third place match at state by the score of 7-1,” Welsing said.  “Clark had also pinned Oscar at the Centennial five-way in January so, the Criminals prospects were pretty bleak. If Oscar lost, the team would get third place, if he won the team would tie for second place but, if he somehow managed to pin his opponent in the finals the Criminals would win their first state wrestling title in 55 years by 0.5 points. In the second period, Oscar threw his opponent to his back with a lateral drop and secured the pin to win the Division III Heavyweight State Championship and secured the Criminals State Team Championship. It was unbelievable.”

In June, the entire state may get a rundown of Vega’s unbelievable season.

Eric Patten