Romero, Pirch Host Sunkist Camp

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Kyle Vlahovich (left) and Trevor Day are two youngsters who participated in the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club training camp held last week in Wilson Dome.

One of the finest wrestling technicians in the country has teamed with a legendary high school coach to host the Sunkist camp June 13 to 17 in Wilson Dome.

Technician Joe Romero, a two-time All-American at Arizona State University, was the driving force behind championship teams at Phoenix College and Tempe Marcos de Niza High School.

Coach Dennis Pirch is the founder of the Payson High school wrestling program. During his 27-year tenure at the helm of the Longhorn team, he built it into one the top 50 programs in the country.

The former National High School Coach of the Year is lavish in his praise of Romero.

"Joe really knows the wrestling techniques and strategy," he said. "He's a great teacher of the sport."

Romero is the current director of Youth Programs for the highly popular Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club.

The opportunity to spend a week in Payson hosting the camp, he said, "was a real pleasure for me. I love to come here."

With the two teaming up to head the camp, the youngsters were treated to what Pirch calls "some old-school coaching stuff.

That means there was a no-nonsense intensity about the training that was accompanied by a jovial atmosphere off the mat.

PHS head coach Rich Ormand, assistant Doug Eckhardt and United States Air Force Academy coach, Dan Mabry were also on the camp staff.

Mabry is no stranger to Arizona having been a three-time state champion while attending Phoenix Alhambra High School.

After graduating from Alhambra, he wrestled at the Air Force Academy and later returned as coach.

The training

Youngsters in the camp arrived in Wilson Dome Sunday afternoon and participated in practice sessions three times each day of the camp.

Their training also consisted of long-distance runs designed to build endurance.

One of the most accomplished wrestlers at the camp, a 16-year-old Phoenix Maryvale grappler, is a USA Wrestling champion in all three styles -- GrecoRoman, freestyle and folkstyle.

During the camp, Payson wrestlers Nick Goodman and Mark McCarty had the opportunity to train with the mat star.

"It was good for our kids to go up against that type of competition," Pirch said.

The Payson wrestlers left camp Wednesday to travel to Gunnison, Colo. where they are entered in the Western State College team camp.

The 31 Valley wrestlers enrolled in the SunKids camp were housed and took their meals in the Lomona dormitory at the Mount Cross Lutheran Church conference and retreat center.

About 10 local youth participated as commuters.

In addition to Payson, Sunkist will host wrestling camps in Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff.

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