Since David DiComenico took over the Mesa High School wrestling program as head coach seven years ago, it’s a position he has cherished.
It’s the same feeling and mindset he has had in his previous two stops at Amphitheater High School in Tucson and Red Mountain High School. With each school came new milestones for DiDomenico, and he remains just one win away from another: 250 career wins.
Mesa had a chance to reach that milestone Thursday against Desert Ridge but fell short. The Jackrabbits faced Cibola Saturday with another chance for DiDomenico to secure the coveted win. No matter when it happens, it will be a special moment he and his team – with all the adversity faced this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic – can cherish forever.
“It’s quite a milestone,” DiDomenico said. “I’ve been an assistant coach most of my career under some great coaches. But to have the wins under your name, it shows longevity. I’m having fun with the kids and they’re winning.
“But it will also be a tribute to the other coaches I learned under.”
DiDomenico’s love for Mesa has grown since he first stepped foot on campus. Living in the community, he felt a deeper connection to all of his wrestlers – many of which state champions – over the years.
During his tenure at Mesa, DiDomenico has coached the likes of Anthony Robles, who went on to star at Arizona State University and become a national champion and household name in the wrestling community despite doing so with one leg. Recent champions include senior John Jarman, who has moved up a weight class in three of his nearly four years with Mesa.
Jarman has placed at state twice during his career and hopes the pandemic doesn’t take away an opportunity for a third. He credits DiDomenico with much of his success throughout his prep career.
“He’s helped me grow a lot and find my position,” said Jarman, a senior co-captain wrestling in the 134-pound weight class. “He can be pretty harsh. If you don’t keep up to the standards, you’re done. His record speaks for itself, but he’s coached a lot of great wrestlers.”
Austin Gray, a senior co-captain alongside Jarman in the 140-pound weight class, echoed the sentiment of his teammate.
DiDomenico’s tough, yet loving style of coaching has paid dividends to the success of wrestlers at Mesa. Gray is one of those this season that hopes to see that coaching pay off in the state tournament.
“If we have state, I want to win state,” Gray said. “I think these least four years here have helped me get to the point where that can be done. It’s been special.”
DiDomenico’s track record at Mesa speaks for itself. While the team has fell short of state championships, it has been a perennial top-10 team on a yearly basis and the lives of wrestlers that come through the program are impacted in other ways.
The team focuses heavily on succeeding in the classroom. On several occasions, DiDomenico has helped wrestlers improve their grades to have an opportunity to attend college. Additionally, the program has seen a slew of wrestlers go on to serve the country in one of the military branches. DiDomenico has several souvenirs from former wrestlers serving overseas.
It’s the life lessons DiDomenico teaches each of his athletes that generally stick with them, which has allowed for Mesa to become well-known not only across the state but the country.
“It’s funny, I’ll be in another state with my gear on and someone will recognize it from Mesa,” DiDomenico said. “I mean, I’m talking across the country people are recognizing this school. That says something.”
Like it has for the seniors, DiDomenico’s impact as a coach has also been felt by juniors and other younger wrestlers in the program.
Kaiden Cisneros, a junior, said the impact DiDomenico has had on his wrestling career has paved the way for him and the rest of the team to be successful. That’s why capturing their coach’s 250th win is among their top priorities heading into the season and realizing they were close to the feat.
“It will be special,” said Cisneros, who wrestles in the 197-pound class. “He’s a great coach to all of us and is always motivating us to do our best. He’s worked so hard. I’ve been here three years learning under him and I wanted to be here when he did it.”
While securing his 250th win has been accomplished, DiDomenico is far from achieving all of his goals as Mesa head coach. He wants to bring the team a championship, which would be its first since 2008, when the Jackrabbits beat DiDomenico and Red Mountain in the semifinals.
But no matter what happens over the course of this season and the foreseeable future, DiDomenico remains thankful to have the opportunity to be at Mesa.
“This is where I want to retire,” DiDomenico said. “Mesa High is a special place, a special community. Once you’re part of it, you’re part of the family. That’s what you get when you come here, one big family.” ′