By John Philip Wyllie
Wrestling is in Mark Ibarra’s blood. Every time this 112 pound Sweetwater High School wrestling captain steps on to the mat, he is carrying on a family tradition. His uncles wrestled at Bakersfield High School in the late sixties. His father, Joe, reached the state tournament for Sweetwater before graduating in 1973. More recently, his brothers Anthony and Frank were league and CIF champions respectively. Needless to say, when Mark Ibarra arrived on to the Red Devil campus four years ago, he did so amidst grand expectations. He has more than lived up to them.
Ibarra finished first in league and eighth in CIF competition as a sophomore. He concluded his junior campaign second in league, fifth in CIF and sixth in the annual Masters Tournament. Now a senior, Ibarra hopes his last season at Sweetwater will be his best.
“I want to follow up on what my Dad, brothers and uncles did and qualify for the state finals,” said the youngest wrestler in the Ibarra dynasty. “I came close last year, but I didn’t make it.” If Ibarra accomplishes his goal of reaching the prestigious state tournament, his father will be on hand to enjoy the moment with him. Joe Ibarra is the head coach at Sweet-water and he has enjoyed watching his son grow into one of the area’s top wrestlers.
“Mark is very persistent. He puts in a lot of time and a lot of hard work. He mostly uses his strength, but he has been wrestling since he was young, so he has a lot of moves. Mark doesn’t take losing very well.”
Having amassed an early season mid-December re-cord of 8-2, he appears well on his way to a season that will again feature many wins against a handful of loses. Ibarra is expected to be the brightest star on a team that is otherwise young and lacking in experience.
“We have some good individual wrestlers, but team-wise we are not very strong. I think we’ll have a few guys that will do pretty well,” Ibarra said. As the captain, Ibarra will try to motivate, coach and encourage the less experienced wrestlers around him.
“I’ve been the captain here since my sophomore year. I just try to work hard and encourage my teammates to keep fighting and never give up.”
Ibarra began wrestling and playing baseball at the age of four and he has no intention of seeing his athletic career end after he graduates in June.
“I plan on wrestling in college, hopefully on a scholarship. I’ve been applying to a lot of schools and trying to get their wrestling coaches to take a look at me. I’m considering Cal-State Bakersfield, Fresno State, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State. My first choice though, is Arizona State.”
If he fulfills his dream of wrestling for the ASU Sun Devils, it is a safe bet that various family members will often make the trek out to Tempe to cheer him on.
“We love the intensity of wrestling. It’s a family thing and it has gotten in our blood.”