PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Every moment Centennial Middle School wrestling coach JuanPablo DeLeon works with his team is his blessing.

When he's talking technique or tactics, it comes from his vast experience and appreciation for one of the toughest sports in which to compete.

"It can be a long walk off that mat if you lose," DeLeon said. "It's an amazing feeling to be all by yourself and get there and get your hand raised. That doesn't happen in a lot of other sports."

DeLeon learned the mat-grueling mind grind and physicality as a sixth-grader at Pueblo Middle School. He later starred at Corona Del Sol High in the 171-pound weight class, finishing in the school's hall of fame.

"The fact that it's the hardest sport in the world, it really gave me an opportunity to prove myself and rise the occasion and do something that was really difficult.  And It really built a lot of character later in life," he said.

Years later, he's directing his passion, energy and effort through the next wave of champions for the Sabercats.

"Well, he takes a lot of time out of his day to help us and practice and everything. And he wants the best for us," Carson Ruthier, one of DeLeon's young wrestlers, said.

"It's really awesome to mentor kids," Deleon said. "And the end of the day, win lose or draw, we're out here trying to build quality people."

Building his team from scratch, in six years, DeLeon has created a respected program, winning a conference championship with a fourth-place state tournament finish.

"Now to be one of the top three schools in the conference, and to always be considered one of the greats, feels really good," said DeLeon.

DeLeon, who also teaches language arts, cares deeply about his program. And he wants to make sure the kids have exactly what they need. He was of of only two Kyrene School District teachers to be selected for the Fiesta Bowl's Wishes for Teachers Program. He's going to get $5,000, and he's putting the money back into his team. He plans to buy new wrestling mats for the squad"

"What a great gift to give back to the program, you now some new fresh wrestling mats we can compete on. It was pretty surreal when I got the phone call saying we got the $5,000," say DeLeon.

Dedicated to the sport and his team, DeLeon is teaching his kids how to be winners on and off the mat.

"It's just awesome to see these kids grow up into productive members of society, and I think wrestling has a little to do with that," DeLeon said,


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.



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