Tarboro senior David Guevara spent many restless nights imagining what it would be like to win a state championship, but before this season, he hadn’t even won a regional title.
Sleepless, Guevara would lie in his bed at night ‘daydreaming’ of what it would be like for his final high school match to be a victory at the state tournament.
When he finally realized his dream and even cracked a smile from his otherwise serious facade, he wanted to call his older brother.
Guevara and Steven Barrera, who is two years older than Guevara, went to the championship tournament together two years ago.
This time, it was Barrera who thought his younger brother still was in a fantasy.
“He didn’t believe me,” said Guevara, the 2013-14 Telegram All-Area Wrestler of the Year.
Maybe Guevara, who won the fourth state wrestling championship in Tarboro history, didn’t believe it himself, either. After the referee raised his hand in victory, he collapsed to the mat.
One of his coaches, Andrew Harding, picked him up and carried him to the scorer’s table, where he signed his result and finally erupted into an emotional outburst with Harding and fellow co-coach Kevin Rawls.
Guevara’s long year was complete.
“We went through so many obstacles to get where we came from,” Guevara said. “It (has) been a long road.”
The previous year, Guevara suffered a concussion during the regional championship bout and wasn’t cleared to compete at the state championship. He changed his way of thinking and planned on making it back to the state tournament and winning.
During the summer, he wrestled twice as many matches and dedicated himself to the sport. He went to week-long camps out of state. He faced some of the better wrestlers within the state.
Once the season started, there was no change – except for the expectations. Now, he was considered a favorite to win the title.
“That made me feel I had to win it,” said Guevara, whose four losses this season all were to 4-A wrestlers. “I couldn’t prove people wrong. There was no way I could lose. ... I couldn’t let people down.”
But all his hard work during the summer wouldn’t have come to fruition without a dominating move.
Harding knew that all great champions had to have one move that would overwhelm the competition. Rawls knew a finishing move would put Guevara over the top.
Guevara found his move in the single sweep, a technical attack that favors the quick instead of its counterpart – the double – that requires overpowering body strength.
Always a dominant stand-up wrestler, Guevara found a move that he could use at will to take down opponents.
Guevara, who wrestled at 113 pounds his entire career, beat the 106-pound 4-A champion, the 113-pound 2-A champ and plenty of talented wrestlers in between.
Every takedown he scored during the state championship bout came off of the single sweep.
“It was like novocaine for David,” Rawls said. “Kids knew it was coming, and most of the time, they didn’t stop it.”
Guevara finished his senior year with a 42-4 record. He is a three-time state qualifier, a one-time regional champion and his 139 career victories are the fourth most in school history.
He even passed Barrera this year.
Guevara finished 13 victories shy of the school record, winning a state title for the first time since 2009 at Tarboro.
The difficult in-season schedule left Guevara with an unrelenting calmness, even if Harding’s nerves were shaken up during every big match.
But things changed in the minutes leading up to the state championship.
Guevara, who is enlisted in the Marines Corps and might join the wrestling team after a tryout in the near future, started to feel the butterflies in the final hour before the match.
Harding, who watched Guevara wrestled what he said was the toughest schedule in 2-A, was calm.
Guevara had his move. He had his experience. He had his failures. In Harding’s mind, he was ready.
“We had done everything right,” Harding said. “We had done everything. We had learned from our mistakes. I knew we were going there to win a state championship. There were no if’s, and’s or but’s in my mind that we were going to win it.”
From the time Guevara was a freshman, his toughness always stuck out to his coaches.
He always was able to win those tight matches – the ones where determination decides the victor more than technical skill.
So when Guevara was put on his back – a place where he hadn’t had much experience this year – during the state championship bout, he leaned on that toughness.
A quick five-point move by his opponent suddenly put an easy win in doubt in the state championship bout.
Guevara escaped, which Harding said was Guevara’s only weakness, and held on for his dream.
“Kids always talk a big game. ‘I’d like to do this or I’d like to do this,’” Harding said. “He did it. There was no talk. He just did it. ... He worked like a state champion this year.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org