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The person with the best seat in the house this weekend is the one for whom the tournament is named, Bryan Sanchez.
Sanchez, a former Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestler who lost his life in a car accident is remembered annually at the Bryan Sanchez Invitational, which is scheduled for Saturday in Auxiliary Gymnasium.
“When Bryan first started to wrestle, I was not a good wrestling mom,” said team mom Rita Sanchez. “I was throwing up and my blood pressure would shoot up. I decided to suck it up and find a way to be supportive and be excited about the sport. Before every match I would put holy dirt from the Santuario de Chimayó on the back of Bryan’s neck. It made me feel better and it made him wrestle well and safe. It was our routine. He would say, ‘dirt me,’ and I would.”
Sanchez now has more sons than she can handle, as the only representative allowed on the floor that can get away with yelling, “Come on honey.”
She along with daughter Elena, will share the workload this weekend, as teams come from far and wide for the tournament.
“I am sooooo excited, it is the high light of wrestling season for me,” Sanchez said. “It makes me happy and it makes me sad. Mostly happy. The sense of family that I feel with my boys and other teams as well. I feel like I am home on that day.”
During the half point of the tournament, Rita and her daughter will present the fifth annual trophy, hand crafted by local artist, Rich Ronquillo. The previous winners include Ben Mitsunaga, Cory Geyer, Chandler Lauritzen and last year’s winner, Brian Geyer.
Geyer pulled a prank on Sanchez following a football game in 2012, telling he’d broken his leg. Sanchez didn’t realize it was a prank and went straight to chapel to pray for him.
For his gag, Sanchez gave him the moniker “S.H.”
The tournament is a big deal for the community and many have stepped up to support it. Local businesses like Rich Welding, SOC and local Orthodontist Devan Vest, have supported the tournament for years.
“I like to sponsor youth athletics because it teaches so many important values, such as diligence, hard work, ethics, sportsmanship and discipline,” said Vest. “I learned these values while participating in athletics and I always felt that sports kept me so busy that I didn’t have any time to get in trouble.”
Vest, wrestled in high school for two years and calls it the, “the toughest physical activity in which I have ever participated.”
The Bryan Sanchez tournament is also the team opportunity to recognize their graduating seniors, as it is their last time performing before the home crowd.
It is also fitting that their last time at home is one of the highlights for Rita Sanchez and her family.
“Bryan would be excited and honored,” said Sanchez. “Wrestling was the only sport that he liked in high school.”