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To say the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team will be going into the state Class 4A tournament with a wave of momentum may be something of an understatement.
The Hilltoppers pulled off a huge upset last weekend at the District 2-4A championship tournament and have a full contingent heading into the state tournament, which gets going Friday morning at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
Los Alamos upended the Capital Jaguars for the district team title. Los Alamos needed a huge showing from its underclassmen and got just that as it nipped the Jaguars by six points to grab its third consecutive 2-4A crown.
“We needed every single one of our wins,” said Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer, who has steered the team to each one of those district titles. “One match goes the other way, we don’t win it.”
Geyer said it was the most exciting tournament he’d ever been a part of in nine years of being a head coach and an assistant around the Hilltopper program.
The Hilltoppers have 14 entries into the 4A tournament, including four district champs. Dominick Montoya, one of the younger wrestlers Los Alamos needed to come through last weekend, more than came through, upsetting Gilbert Mancha of Capital in the final of that weight class to earn the first district title of his career.
Montoya joins district champs Lane Saunders at 170 pounds, Brian Geyer at 195 pounds and Jonathan Schueler at heavyweight for the Hilltoppers.
State coaches will get together tonight to seed the brackets and Los Alamos’ coaching staff feels confident Geyer and Saunders are each in line for a top-two seeding.
Geyer, who won the 182-pound state title last season, is a virtual lock for a No. 1 seed. He went 31-2 on the season and has wins over many of the entries into the 4A draw.
It’s unlikely Geyer will see particularly challenging competition until Saturday’s semifinal.
Saunders has been one of the most consistent wrestlers on the Hilltoppers’ roster this season and has one of the best records among 170 pounders. His big competition this season could be freshman Andres Villa of Goddard, who won a whopping 41 bouts against just 5 losses.
In the heavyweight division, only three wrestlers with more than 15 decisions on the year had a better winning percentage than Schueler. Belen’s Danny Gordon (38-3) might be in line for the No. 1 seed, while Jasper Denteclaw of Miyamura (34-4), who finished as the runner-up in District 6 behind Gordon, may also be awarded a high seed.
In team competition, Piedra Vista’s Panthers are still the squad to beat. The Panthers have dominated the last three seasons and, while coach Geyer said he doesn’t feel they’re as strong as they have been in recent year, they’re probably still deep enough to win yet again.
In last year’s state tournament, the Hilltoppers finished with 137.5 points, which was good enough for fifth place, their best finish at the tournament in many years.
Among the top performers a year ago was Chandler Lauritzen, who finished fifth at 132 pounds. Lauritzen, who was battling the flu earlier this month, finished second in 2-4A at 145 pounds.
Because of his top-six finish last season, Lauritzen might also be able to sneak in as a 5 or 6 seed for his weight bracket.
Coach Geyer said it will be interesting to see how his young team responds this weekend.
“Last year, it was six or eight kids that got us all our points,” he said. “This year (at district), everybody gave us some points. Every point we had to have.”
106 lbs.: Reyes Mendez (9-16)
113 lbs.: Alexander Palmer (9-7)
120 lbs.: Mateo Cardiel (25-19)
126 lbs.: Daniel Aguirre (10-21)
132 lbs.: Dominick Montoya (11-22)
138 lbs.: Damien Sundby (7-14)
145 lbs.: Chandler Lauritzen (23-12)
152 lbs.: Nathan Aguirre (16-24)
160 lbs.: Aaron Hinojos (7-7)
170 lbs.: Lane Saunders (21-5)
182 lbs.: Chris Romero (17-20)
195 lbs.: Brian Geyer (31-2)
220 lbs.: John Dermer (24-10)
285 lbs.: Jonathan Schueler (24-4)