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SANTA FE — Inside the wrestling room at the Pueblo Complex, a banner hangs from the wall. The banner is 17 years old and has stood alone for a long time.
“We’ve been pointing at that banner every day for a month now,” Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer said, to remind the team that it hadn’t earned a district title since 1995. “We told (our guys), ‘if you want one, you’d better wrestle.’”
Now, that banner will have some company.
The Hilltoppers earned a 2-4A title Saturday at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium. They finished with 156 team points, 23 points better than co-runners up Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Los Alamos got more wrestlers into the final round, nine, than any of the other four competing teams, and took three individual titles.
Cory Geyer at 152 pounds, Brian Geyer at 170 pounds and Arnoldo Ortiz at 182 pounds grabbed the individual crowns, with Brian Geyer having to come back from a second period deficit against Jonah Schemlz of Santa Fe to win his title.
Los Alamos now advances to this weekend’s state Class 4A championship tournament. In all, it will have 12 representatives entered into the draw, the most it’s had in over a decade.
Cory Geyer, a junior, got a run for his money in both his bouts Saturday.
The top-seeded Geyer was knocked back in the semifinal by Santa Fe’s Jose Miramontes. Miramontes, working off the bottom to start the second period, took a 3-0 lead with just :14 remaining in the period.
With about :10 left, however, Geyer drove into Miramontes’ ankle and straight to his back to pick up five quick points and take the lead.
Geyer would ultimately prevail 6-3 to get into the final against another tough wrestler, Keonny Gonzales of Bernalillo.
Gonzales got a late first period reversal, but before time expired in the period, Geyer returned the favor. Geyer’s second period reversal took Gonzales to his back, where Geyer pinned him at the 2:20 mark.
“Those two guys were both seniors,” he said after his win. “I knew they were going to come out strong, more than they ever did before, but you’ve got to find a way to win.”
Ortiz went to three overtime periods before holding off Santa Fe’s Anthony Maestas, keeping Maestas face-down on the mat through the final 30 seconds of the contest to earn the win in his first year with the team.
At 170 pounds, Brian Geyer was taken down hard with 1:05 remaining in the second period by Schemlz and just narrowly avoided coming down on his back.
Schmelz held a 3-2 lead heading into the final period, but chose to work off the bottom to start the third period. Geyer caught him with a textbook power-half nelson and turned Schmelz on his back for the pin.
Also advancing to the final round of the 2-4A tournament were Chandler Lauritzen at 132 pounds, Lane Saunders at 138, Ben Mitsunaga at 145, Peter Brewer at 195, Diego Madrid at 220 and Jonathan Schueler at heavyweight. Only Mitsunaga survived to the end of his bout, although he fell in a 4-0 decision to Bernalillo’s Jose Monclova.
One of the happiest surprises of the day for the Hilltoppers was Chris Romero, an 120-pound eighth grader called up for Saturday’s tournament, scored an upset pinfall over Santa Fe’s Arley Trujillo. Romero, who was told just before the bout that he was about to take part in the contest of his life, was up to the challenge, locking up Trujillo’s arm and putting him on his back midway through the second round.
Things started off about as well as they could’ve for the Hilltoppers, who lost just three contested bouts through two rounds — Dakota Ami at 113 pounds forfeited out due to illness but because he weighed in prior to the tournament is still eligible to advance to state.
Following the tournament, coach Geyer was named 2-4A’s Coach of the Year. He said he felt for some time that his team could break the district title drought if it could have a solid showing Saturday.
“It’s here, so we’ve got to take it,” he said. “They came out and they wrestled well all day. The difference between a district title and not is a good day. We had a good day.”