For Rocky Beery, winning a Class 3A championship was much more than staking his claim as the state's best 171-pound wrestler. It was the opportunity to honor his 11-year-old brother who died several weeks ago after suffering a seizure.
"I dedicated my efforts to him ... I wanted to (win the championship) for him," Beery said.
With thoughts of his brother swirling in his mind, Beery went about winning the championship in workman-like fashion.
His quest jumped out to a lightning quick start Friday morning in Phoenix Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. There, he methodically took apart his Tuba City first round opponent.
Relying upon quickness and speed for two-point take downs, Beery was the aggressor throughout the match.
By the time the clock wore down, Beery had built a 16-7 lead and was awarded the victory on a major decision.
In the second round, Beery continued to dominate. Against a Safford foe, he put together a 14-9 lead before winning on a fall with only two seconds remaining in the match.
Beery attributes the triumph to his dogged determination to win for his brother and the PHS coaching staff.
"I was better coached. That's one of the reasons I won," he said.
Next on the championship agenda for the PHS senior was a Blue Ridge opponent Beery was all to familiar with.
"He bit me, he bit me on the arm," Beery said. The alleged incident occurred in a three-way regular season meet held Jan. 10 in Winslow.
In the state round, there was no gnawing and jawing, but there was plenty of action. At the end of regulation, the score was dead-knotted 6-6.
In overtime, just as the opening whistle started, Beery opted to shoot a football-like tackle.
His ploy resulted in a two-point takedown and nail-biting 8-6 victory.
"That was a close one ... could have gone either way for a while," the teenager said.
With the narrow triumph, Beery earned a berth in the championship round contested Saturday evening.
Again his foe was a wrestler he had locked horns with earlier in the campaign.
At the Camp Verde Duals Dec. 1 and 2, Beery wrestled his way to a 20-5 technical fall victory over the San Manuel grappler he was to meet in the state finals.
Like he had in the first meeting between the two, Beery's game plan was to attack his opponent's legs and score with takedowns.
By the third period, the SM wrestler succumbed to Beery's antics and was pinned.
The victory, and the state crown, brought tears to the eyes of some teammates and wrestlerettes who knew all too well that he was wrestling with the memory of his brother.
Just as meet officials honored him as a state champion, Beery turned his eyes upward and pointed toward the ceiling. Some thought he was declaring his victory. In truth, he said, it was his way of telling his brother that the victory was for him.
Wrestling to a state weight championship is a tremendous accomplishment for any prep athlete. For Beery, the task was much more difficult than most.
After returning to Payson from his brother's out-of-state funeral, Beery found himself a tad out of shape from lack of practices.
Due to fatigue, Beery struggled in the East regional championship to a 2-2 record and qualified for state by earning a fourth and final berth in his division.
Normally a fourth seed to state won't make it past the first two rounds.
Also, Beery who weighed only 163 pounds was giving away quite a bit of bulk to most of his opponents.
The adversity never dampened Beery's confidence.
"I knew I could beat everyone I was going to face .... and I had a good reason for beating them," he said.
Raised in Sigourney, Iowa, Beery says he's been wrestling since he was in kindergarten, but his career might have ended in Veteran's Coliseum
He said he doesn't plan to continue the sport in college, although he might be called on to compete in some season-ending all-star clashes.