Air Force hires Avelar one of three wrestlers from Sunnyside conducting education camp for underprivileged children


Sunnyside wrestling dynasty has another NCAA Division I wrestler on the way – class of 2023 stand out Michel Avelarwho committed to the Air Force Academy on Thursday — and he’s already giving back to the community while still in high school.

Avelar (a 4.0 GPA Honors/Advance Placement student), recent signer of the United States Military Academy at West Point Jaime Rivera Jr.and two-time state champion and world-class wrestler Audrey Jiménez organize an educational camp in Sunnyside from Tuesday to Saturday which is aimed at underprivileged young people.

Sunnyside’s Outstanding Wrestlers is partnering with the Arizona Counsel on Economic Education for the event. The camp, called Counting Takedowns, involves K-12 students that includes seminars on economic topics taught by the Arizona Counsel on Economic Education in addition to on-the-mat training with Avelar, Rivera and Jimenez, all of whom have a 4.0 GPA.

Avelar, who captured the 165-pound state title in February when Sunnyside won their 35th state championship, will continue a long list of Blue Devil wrestlers who have reached the highest level in college wrestling.

The recent group since the 2017-18 school year includes Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), Jesse Ybarra and Sebastien Robles (Iowa), Anthony Echemendia (Ohio State), Rivera (United States Military Academy West Point) and Rene Fragoso (State of Arizona).

Michael Avelar will head to the Air Force in 2023-24 on a wrestling scholarship (Avelar photo)

Avelar’s father Rick Jr. is a retired associate football coach at Walden Grove and his brother Rick III played football for the Red Wolves before attending Dayton on a scholarship. He is a Flyers linebacker expected to play this fall after being redshirted last season as a rookie.

Counting Takedowns is part of a scholarship Jimenez, Avelar, and Rivera received through the Dragon Kim Foundation, a California-based nonprofit with this mission statement: “Inspiring our youth to have an impact on their communities while discovering and pursuing their passions”.

A community event is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Sunnyside on the last day of Counting Takedowns to highlight the importance of this project led by Jimenez, Avelar and Rivera.

The Dragon Kim Foundation was founded in 2015 by Grace and Daniel Kim and named for their 14-year-old son, Dragon, who was killed along with a friend when a huge tree branch fell on their tent while on a camping trip. Dragon was passionate about music, athletics, learning, and community service. He could play 10 instruments and loved helping teach music to young children. Dragon attended high school at the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), where he played in three ensembles, studied jazz, discovered a love for math, economics, and physics, and was very active in athletics, playing goalie for his water polo. team, and is pursuing a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Dragon has benefited from a complete educational experience. He felt that all children deserved this and wanted to provide opportunities for others to learn and grow. After his passing, the Dragon Kim Foundation carries on his legacy, continuing his love of life and learning, making possible for young people to pursue interests in areas that Dragon himself was passionate about, and to help give others access to a bright future. Our programs strive to bring to life Dragon’s dream of helping children learn and serve their community, as well as supporting youth programs in academics, athletics and the arts. The Dragon Kim Foundation

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