1/2/2013 8:57:00 AM A look back at 2012 DalCerro captures 1st state wrestling title in Chino history
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Chino Valley High Schoolís Patch Dalcerro gets a big hug from Coach Scott Muir after beating Minus Union High Schoolís Brandon Morales to take the Division II High School State Wrestling Championship title Feb. 10, 2012, at Timís Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Patrick "Patch" DalCerro grew up with three brothers, including two older ones who weren't bashful about dispensing an occasional dose of tough love.
Like Patch, Sean and Matt DalCerro wrestled at Chino Valley High, and they motivated their younger sibling to want to succeed in the grueling varsity sport.
At the Division III state wrestling tournament in February, their inspiration bore fruit when Patch became the first grappler in the Cougars program's 23-year history to capture an individual state title, concluding his 2011-12 senior campaign with a 53-5 record.
While Chino coach Allen Foster played a major role in Patch's progression, his brothers had prodded him for years.
"We pushed him to wrestle, whether he really wanted to or not," Matt said this month. "Over the years, it's just basically (been about) keeping him into it and everything."
This past March, Patch said Sean and Matt's approach rubbed off on him.
"I'm used to taking on guys bigger and stronger than me," Patch said. "We (my brothers and I) were just messing around with each other, but I certainly got picked on more than my little brother, Nicolas. I think that helped me become a better wrestler."
There's no doubt about it.
In the state finals Feb. 10 at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Sean, 25, and Matt, 22, watched from the stands as the fourth-seeded Patch nipped No. 7 seed Cottonwood Mingus Union's Brandon Morales, 3-2, toward the end of the match to claim the 170-pound crown.
"It was absolutely crazy. I was in tears," Matt said of his reaction after Patch's victory. "It's indescribable. I've never been more proud of him, because he never really had much of a drive for things like that. He just amazed everybody. He deserved it so much."
Sean added that he felt a little nervous for Patch.
"I knew he had worked pretty hard," Sean said. "Even though I knew he would be fine either way, whether he won or not, I wanted him to win. When it came down to those last couple seconds, I was like, 'Oh, man, you need those points.' He just burst through and did it."
Patch, a 6-footer, had the uncanny ability to wear down his opponents even when he didn't appear very intimidating on the mat.
At state, Patch pulled out several close matches by pumping himself up both physically and mentally in the waning moments.
"Like a lot of the other kids say, Patch just came out of nowhere when he started winning match after match, and beating these guys that nobody expected him to beat," Matt said. "It started clicking for him his junior and senior year."
The previous season, in 2010-11, Patch failed to place at state, losing his two opening matches. But he learned from the disappointment - like he had so many times wrestling his brothers - and used it as motivation to labor harder.
Sean said Patch's improvement from 2010-11 to 2011-12 was a "night and day difference."
"He's a very relaxed type of guy - that's his personality," Sean said. "That has a lot to do with how good he does because he's never tense. He doesn't take anything like it's a big deal. When it came to his senior year of wrestling, he just really wanted to prove himself. He's the type of guy who can do anything he puts his mind to."
For two weeks prior to the 2012 postseason, the explosive 5-foot-8, 170-pound Sean and the muscular 5-10, 200-pound Matt grappled with Patch and his longtime training partner/teammate, 160-pounder Jake Lund, in the CVHS wrestling room.
Sean said coach Foster gave Patch all of the assistance he needed with his technique. That's when Sean took it upon himself to wrestle with Patch in a live setting to strengthen his resolve.
"If anything, I would say I helped him with mental toughness," said Sean, who qualified for state all four years he wrestled at Chino, although he never placed. "When you wrestle with the same partner for a season or whatever, which is kind of how it is on a small team like that, you get a little complacent. I just helped push him to his limits."
Matt added that he and Sean purposefully gave Patch all he could handle.
"He (Patch) got two different worlds (from me and Sean), and obviously we didn't hold back too much on him," Matt said. "We really gave it to him. We knew he could take it. He's always been tough."
Sean, Matt and coach Foster offered Patch tips that would eventually aid him in winning a tight state semifinal match in overtime Feb. 9.
Although Matt and Patch have opposite personalities, which caused them to butt heads, Matt didn't let that stop him from reaching out to his little brother during training in the wrestling room.
"I went in there regardless," Matt said. "I was just like, 'You have a chance to take state and everything, so let me just show you whatever I can before you do.' We both just put it aside."
Patch said in March that Matt has "a really explosive style that's completely different than what I'm used to."
When Patch wrestled Matt in practice, he said it was like getting a whole-body strength and cardiovascular workout.
The long-armed, long-legged Patch developed his own unique style that contributed mightily to him winning a state title. Rarely did an opponent figure out how to approach it.
"His biggest thing is he liked to use his legs a lot," Matt said. "When you wrestle with him, it's obvious that it's something weird."
Nevertheless, Patch partly modeled himself after Matt, who captured fourth- and fifth-place finishes at state during his junior and senior seasons, respectively, at CVHS.
Matt wrestled at 152 pounds his senior year. After graduation, he moved away from Chino for about two years. Before Matt left, he recalled that Patch didn't have great balance on the mat.
"I didn't have that high of hopes for him, because he was not into it," Matt said. "And then I came back, and he was kind of throwing me around. He was a completely different kid."
While Patch acknowledged the impact his brothers had on him, he credited Foster and Lund for pushing him to greater heights.
This year, Lund finished second in his weight class at state and ended 2011-12 with a 49-9 record. In the off-season, he wrestled every weekend at every tournament he could.
Foster said in February that Patch didn't put in as much off-season time as Lund, but his brothers seasoned him, which "paid big dividends."
The coach, who mentored all three of the eldest DalCerro brothers, shared with the Courier in March his theory on Patch's success.
"Younger brothers are always the studs," Foster said. "Older brothers set the direction, middle brothers do a lot of hard work, which sets the tone for the younger brother to come in, do more hard work and accomplish something."
Foster has a firm grasp on the skills, talent and tireless work required to win at the highest level in the varsity ranks. In 1991, he captured a Class 4A individual state title as a 135-pound senior at Prescott High.
Patch and Foster had some arguments at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, which prompted the coach to wonder if his promising grappler would "make the jump" toward becoming a state-title contender.
But Patch clearly matured as the campaign progressed. He began to accept both praise and criticism from Foster while ironing out his deficiencies.
In March, Patch acknowledged Foster's influence, without prompting, undoubtedly making Sean and Matt proud.
"I took his advice on some things this year instead of arguing with him," Patch said of Foster, "and that was important."