´Toppers take first place at Sanchez Invite

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Wrestling: LA’s 132- pounder Lauritzen earns team award

By Mike Cote

If the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team was in need of momentum heading into the District 2-4A tournament this week, it found some on Saturday.
Los Alamos hosted its annual Bryan Sanchez Memorial Invitational Saturday, the final event of its regular season. In the tournament, Los Alamos’ top squad finished with 163 points to pick up the team victory, outdistancing the Valencia Jaguars, who finished with 139 points.
At the tournament, Los Alamos’ grapplers earned four top weight-class finishes. Cory Geyer was the big winner at 152 pounds, Brian Geyer won at 170 pound, Jonathan Schueler won a two-man battle at heavyweight and Arnoldo Ortiz picked up a win in the closest-contested weight class of the day, 182 pounds.
Ortiz, Taos’ Andrew Maes and Valencia’s Ramon Fuentes each split three contests against one another, but Ortiz won the tiebreaker on point differential between the three. All three wrestlers went 4-1 on the day — the tournament was a round-robin format — but Ortiz’s major decision over Fuentes overcame his only loss of the day, a 5-2 decision to Maes, to give him the victory.
“I was hoping for the best,” Ortiz said. “The cards just fell into my favor.”
Hilltopper veteran wrestler Chandler Lauritzen had plenty to celebrate. Along with the team victory and a third-place individual finish at 132 pounds, Lauritzen was given the 2011-12 Bryan Sanchez Award.
The Bryan Sanchez Award, which, along with the tournament, is named after a former Los Alamos wrestler who was killed in car accident on Christmas Eve 2009. The award is given to the Hilltopper program’s wrestler who most exemplifies Sanchez’s work ethic and standard of excellence.
Lauritzen, who is arguably the most improved returning wrestler of this season, said it was a huge for him.
“This is such a great award for me,” he said. “There are so many deserving people on this team. To get this is such a great honor.”
The award was given to him by Rita Sanchez, a Los Alamos Middle School teacher, and her daughter, Elena, a longtime volunteer with the wrestling program.
It was tough going for Lauritzen last year, but he made significant strides in the off-season, including putting on a fair amount of extra muscle and working on technique throughout the preseason.
Heading into the 2-4A tournament, which is scheduled for Saturday at Santa Fe High School, he has helped solidify the middleweights in the Hilltopper lineup, the team’s bread-and-butter.
“I’ve definitely improved over last year,” he said. “I just got it in my head I had to try harder, I had to push it harder in the (wrestling) room. We have great guys and they helped to push me to get better.”
The Sanchez tournament made its return after being canceled due to an extreme cold snap and the ensuing statewide natural gas shortage — the tournament’s theme this year was “Frozen Out But Not Forgotten.”
Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer said the team was particularly motivated heading into the home tournament, the program’s showcase event of the year.
“We’re going into district and we have to have a few more kids step up, but we’ve got a good start going into district,” Geyer said. “A lot of kids wrestled really good. We had some kids trying too hard, going for pins when they were up in the last round. We need to stop trying to force stuff that isn’t really there. Other than that, it was a really good performance by the kids. I’m really proud of them.”
Cory Geyer, who is wrestling about as well as anyone in the state right now, scored four pinfalls in five contests Saturday, including two in under a minute — his :14 pin of Capital’s Victorio Saucedo was the second-fastest pin of the day.
His toughest bout came against Bernalillo’s Keonny Gonzales, a prelude what could well be the 152-pound district championship bout this week.
Geyer was up 2-0 after a relatively quiet first two rounds. With under a minute remaining in the contest, Gonzales tied the score with a reversal working off the bottom, but Geyer countered about 13 seconds later with what would be the winning points.
Brian Geyer picked up four pins in four outings to win at 170 pounds, with only Las Vegas Robertson’s Diego Trujillo surviving as long as two rounds.
Also for Los Alamos, Lane Saunders went 3-1, taking second place at 138 pounds, while Lauritzen’s 2-1 mark on the day placed him third.
Following the Hilltoppers, Bernalillo finished fifth out of the nine teams taking part, while Capital was seventh. Española Valley and Santa Fe, Los Alamos’ other two district opponents, didn’t take part although Española Valley had been scheduled but pulled out earlier last week.
Ortiz, who was wrestling in his first Bryan Sanchez event, said he knew going in how important it was for the Hilltoppers to have a good showing.
“It means a lot,” he said. “We were all trying our hardest to make Bryan, Mrs. Sanchez and Elena proud.”