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Casa Grande Union wrestlers Briana Quiroz and her brother Damian are part of a family bond on the Cougars wrestling team that includes older brother Rafael. Briana qualified Feb. 1 for the state meet next week, while Damian and Rafael qualified at sectionals Saturday in Tucson.

CASA GRANDE — The sport of wrestling is one big family.

From the brotherhood of the coaching fraternity, to the camaraderie of the wrestlers and even the special bond that wrestling parents share on Saturdays in preparing the hospitality room that feeds tournament workers.

It’s one big family.

But this year, for Casa Grande Union, that family bond is also a blood bond for the Quiroz family.

Rafael is a senior wrestling at 145 pounds, while his younger brother Damian, a junior, wrestles at 138. Both are hungry to get back to the state tournament.

Then there is the newest member of this family, sister Briana, a freshman wrestling at 126. She is taking on the boys while preparing herself to potentially make history for the Cougars.

“We are unique as far as wrestlers,” Casa Grande Union coach Carlos Hernandez said. “Nobody bonds as much as wrestling families. I have always said that wrestling is the special forces of high school sports. Because nobody comes out for wrestling. It’s a tough sport.”

For both Damian and Briana, it started with watching older brother Rafael while the two were in middle school.

“It was him shooting (takedown) and him taking people down. He has a good shot, and that really brought it out. He’s really good at taking people down,” Damian said of watching his brother. “We started in middle school. I started in sixth grade, and after that, we just saw wrestling and thought it was interesting and fell in love with it ever since.”

Hernandez is no stranger to siblings on the team, after recently having brothers Izik and Dillen Turner. Dillen qualified for the state tournament in 2017 at 132 pounds, while Izik placed third at 160 in 2016.

“When you have a wrestling family like that, they push each other and they create the outstanding wrestlers,” He said. “Especially when they are small and their older siblings are competing. So they already know the ways of wrestling.”

Both Damian and Rafael qualified for state last year, with Damian going 1-2 and Rafael going 0-2. The pair will once again head to state this year after each placed third Saturday at the Division III Section I tournament at Tucson Amphitheater.

“I felt like I could’ve won. It just got a way,” Damian said of last year’s state tournament experience. “Last year I came up short, and this year I feel like I can place.”

For Briana, the freshman has been wrestling the boys this year, which Damian admits he wishes he could go out there and wrestle the boys that are wrestling her.

“Yep. I get looked at a lot differently,” Briana said of wrestling with the boys. “Like it’s going to be easier.”

Briana qualified for state last weekend in the 118-pound weight class after placing second in the Division III Section I tournament.

Prior to sectionals, she said wrestling against the boys made her stronger and better prepared for sectionals, where she would wrestle against girls.

“I think it’s going to be easier since I’ve been wrestling boys all year,” Briana said. “Most of the boys that I’ve been wrestling, I can hang with all of them.”

For Hernandez, he’s had female wrestlers in the past, but Briana is the first since the Arizona Interscholastic Association added girls wrestling last year.

He added that with her wrestling the guys, he’s not surprised at the success she’s had.

“I’m really impressed, Hernandez said. “I knew with the girls she would be where she’s at. But with the boys, she has a lot of hard mat time during the course of the season.

“She has a lot of heart and he never gives up.”

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