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The season finale for the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team holds special significance for those around the program.
Los Alamos hosted its Bryan Sanchez Memorial Invitational Saturday at Auxiliary Gymnasium. This was the fourth annual Bryan Sanchez Invitational, which is named after a former Hilltopper standout wrestler that died in a car accident on his 21st birthday in 2008.
The highest award given out by the Hilltopper wrestling program, the Bryan Sanchez Award, was won this year by junior Brian Geyer. Rita Sanchez, Bryan’s mother and team mom of the program, gives the award to the wrestler she feels best exemplifies her son’s spirit.
The Geyers have kept a close relationship with the Sanchez family and Brian became the second Geyer to win the award — it was given two years ago to his older brother, Cory.
“I’m really amazed,” Brian Geyer said after receiving the award. “I always looked up to Bryan when I was a little kid, him and the rest of that team. It’s of great significance to me…Being picked by Ms. Sanchez as the guy that has the same characteristics as Bryan is a great honor for me.”
Los Alamos finished as the runner-up in Saturday’s tournament. Los Alamos picked up 183 team points, taking a pair of weight division titles, including Brian Geyer at 182 pounds.
It was Valencia, however, that had the biggest showing of the tournament.
Valencia’s Jaguars racked up 203 points, grabbing five individual first place titles.
For Los Alamos, Cory Geyer was the other weight division winner, taking first at 160 pounds. To do so, he had to pull through a wild finish against Española Valley’s Florian Castillo late in the tournament.
Geyer was clinging to a 1-point lead with under 30 seconds remaining against Castillo, when Castillo scored a late takedown go up 5-4. Just before time expired in regulation, Geyer managed to slip Castillo’s grasp to tie the score and force an overtime period.
Then, just before time ran out in the first overtime period, Geyer slipped Castillo’s attempted head-and-arm throw and knocked Castillo to the mat to earn the win.
It was an exciting finish to a tough bout, although Hilltopper head coach Bob Geyer said the contest got more interesting than it needed to because of a slow start by Cory in the first period, a problem that plagued much of the team Saturday.
Española Valley, which placed four wrestlers in either the top or runner-up spot in their weight divisions, finished in third place in the team standings.
The Sundevils’ strong finish, grabbing 140.5 points, comes just a week before they host the District 2-4A championship tournament. The Sundevils finished well ahead of Capital, which Los Alamos’ coaching staff considers to be the team the Hilltoppers will most have to look out for in their quest for a second straight district title.
Capital competed Saturday without several of its regular starters, however, which affected its outcome.
Along with the two individual wins, Los Alamos’ Diego Madrid finished as the runner-up at 220 pounds — he moved up from the 195-pound weight class, a mutual decision made by him and Hilltopper Peter Brewer, who dropped to the 195 slot this week — and heavyweight John Dermer.
For Dermer, it was one of his better outings of the season as well. Dermer, a sophomore who at 215 pounds wrestles light in the heavyweight division, said going up against often much bigger opponents can be a mixed blessing.
“Sometimes it has its advantages for me,” he said. “A lot of times I’m lighter, faster and in better condition, but against other guys it’s kind of hard because they’re a lot stronger than me and they can throw me.”
Only three other Hilltoppers made it into the top three overall Saturday, which was not the finish the team wanted to see.
“I definitely wanted more than two titles,” coach Geyer said. “But, it is what it is. Arnoldo (Ortiz) lost a close one, Diego could’ve beaten the kid he lost to but he tried outmuscling him and there, that ain’t gonna work.”
Heading into the tournament, Los Alamos was still battling some illness which hit the team hard the previous week. While most of the worst of the sickness that had been going around the wrestling room seemed to be over, coach Geyer said he thought everyone that still wasn’t feeling so hot would be better by this weekend’s 2-4A tournament.
Several of the Hilltoppers were able to earn or maintain their head-to-head advantage over 2-4A wrestlers Saturday, which could affect the seeding of the district tournament, the only chance wrestlers will get to advance to the state tournament.
Among those wrestlers were Madrid, who needed less than a full period to pin Española Valley’s Jordan Trujillo and Chandler Lauritzen and Lane Saunders, both of whom picked up important wins over opponents from Capital.
“Most of the guys won their district matches that mattered for next week,” said Brian Geyer, who finishes his regular season with a stellar win-loss mark of 34-3. “We’ve still got to wrestle tough next week. Hopefully, we’ll win back-to-back district titles.”