By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – Wrestlers have high testosterone by the nature of the sport, but they also have to have a strong dedication to compete at a high level. At the Division III Section I finals hosted by Safford on Saturday, a wrestler from Tucson Canyon Del Oro High School showed lack of dedication to his sport when he not only illegally struck an opponent but also attacked a rival coach.
According to a news release from Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman, officers were dispatched to Safford High School at about 3:30 p.m. regarding a fight in progress. Upon arrival, officers learned that a CDO wrestler, Michael Buda Jr., 18, “aggressively tackled” a coach from Tucson Salpointe Catholic High School.
Buda had already been disqualified from his match with a Salpointe wrestler for striking his opponent in his neck and during the after match handshake, a verbal altercation ensued between the Salpointe coach and Buda.
Witnesses at the scene said the coach took offense to Buda’s lack of sportsmanship and Buda responded by cursing at the coach. As Safford Athletic Director Toni Corona was escorting the Salpointe coach away, Buda’s father, Michael Buda Sr., 39, crossed a barrier and came onto the mat area in an aggressive manner, forcing Corona and Safford wrestling coach Herman Andrews to give him their attention. At that time, Buda Jr. tackled the Salpointe coach and had to be restrained by team members, officials, and Safford High School staff.
The incident was captured on a Safford High School closed-circuit security camera.
Buda Sr. also had to restrained, according to Brugman.
Despite initial reports from a local newspaper and radio personality citing unsubstantiated sources that Buda Jr. and Sr. were arrested and charged, according to Brugman, the case is still under investigation by Safford detectives and, as of Monday afternoon, no charges have yet to be issued. The newspaper later corrected its article without acknowledging it had posted incorrect information.
While Buda Jr. has not yet been formally charged, according to Arizona Revised Statute 13-1204, he faces a possible aggravated assault charge for tackling a teacher during a school function.
After the ruckus, the competition continued and Safford ended up taking second place out of 16 schools with 173 points. Sahuarita Walden Grove finished first with 243 points, and CDO was third with 156 points.
The top wrestlers will now compete for glory at the state tournament at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley on Feb. 7-8.