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Hilltopper wrestling falls to last place in district

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By Mike Cote

It was not the day the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team was hoping to have.

Los Alamos hosted the District 2AAAA championship tournament Saturday at Auxiliary Gym. Los Alamos, instead of making a push for a runner-up spot in 2AAAA, was relegated to last place among the five district teams Saturday.

The Hilltoppers garnered 101 team points in the tournament. They were edged out by the Capital Jaguars, who finished in fourth place with 104 points.

If Los Alamos was disappointed with its finish Saturday, it certainly wasn’t the only team. The Española Valley Sundevils, which had dominated the district tournament for the past four years, was upset by Bernalillo in the team standings.

Bernalillo, which has had an up-and-down season in 2009-10, finished on a big up. The Spartans, whom the Hilltoppers upset for the district’s runner-up spot a season ago, grabbed 164 team points, eking out a 5-point victory over the Sundevils.

Española Valley, Taos and Bernalillo each had seven wrestlers advance to the final round. Taos, another team that wasn’t considered a major threat for a district title, finished a very respectable third, grabbing 143 points.

Individually, the Hilltoppers placed three wrestlers into the championship round, only one of which survived even one minute on the mat.

Los Alamos, however, will still send seven wrestlers to this weekend’s state tournament by virtue of their top-three finishes at Saturday’s tournament.

“I think we should’ve had two more,” said Hilltopper Brian Geyer, who finished third at                                                           140 pounds. “We lost a couple of close ones in third- and fourth-place, 103 and 130. It’s a little bit (disappointing).”

Bob Geyer, Los Alamos’ first-year head coach said that although he would rather have seen his team make a little bit better of a run at Bernalillo and Española Valley, he was OK with getting as many wrestlers qualified as his team did.

“If you had told me early this year we’d be taking seven kids to state, as young as we are, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “It would’ve been nice to take a few more, but missed a few because of mistakes. A lot of that is inexperience.”

Los Alamos’ lone senior, 171-pounder Gary Thorne, had a difficult road toward grabbing a state ticket, but he bounced back from a tournament-opening loss to knock off Capital’s Jacob Naranjo in the third-place contest.

Thorne made quick work of Naranjo, scoring on a quick ankle pick which took Naranjo right to his back. Thorne scored the pin in just :35.

Also on the consolation side, 135-pounder Cory Geyer and heavyweight Taylor Morrison took third by default.

Taking second in district this season for the Hilltoppers were 145-pounder John Gibson, 152-pounder Clint Adams and 189-pounder Diego Madrid.

Adams was a late entry in the 152-pound bracket. Adams, who wrestled at 160 for a good portion of the season after being unable to knock out teammate Desmond Fellers in wrestle-offs, got the nod last week after Fellers was unable to bounce back from a dislocated shoulder suffered the week before. Fellers went down early in the Bryan Sanchez Memorial Invitational and Geyer said he didn’t want to take any chances, although that meant Fellers would be ineligible to move on to the state tournament.

Adams, for his part, downed Kevin Montoya of Española Valley pinning him with just one second remaining in the second period. Throughout most of the second period, Adams struggled against Montoya, who had scored 4 unaswered points before Adams’ reversal with just :31 remaining.

Madrid, at 189 pounds, had a big challenge waiting for him early, too.

In his first bout of the day, Madrid drew Bernalillo’s Clayton Pankey, against whom he was 0-2 this season.

But Madrid came out aggressive early, taking Pankey down twice in the first period to grab a 4-1 lead. Madrid moved out to a 5-1 edge after two periods, then just held on through Pankey’s comeback attempt late in the third period. Pankey scored a 2-point takedown with 5 seconds remaining, but Madrid prevailed 5-3.

Madrid said afterward he was starting to run out of gas toward the end of the bout, something he’ll do whatever he can to prevent this weekend.

“I’m definitely going to push myself,” Madrid said. “That way, I’m not as tired as when I wrestled (Pankey). I’ll be doing a lot more.”

As a team, Bernalillo won six of the seven championship bouts it was involved in Saturday, including the one head-to-head final it had with Española Valley at 140 pounds, which proved to be the difference in the team standings.

Wrestlers will be seeded for the Class AAAA state meet Thursday, although Los Alamos’ wrestlers won’t be seeded in any of their weight classes. The state tournament starts at noon Friday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.