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There is something in the air inside the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling room. Literally and figuratively.
For the first time in the lives of many on Los Alamos’ roster, the Hilltoppers are going into the season as the reigning District 2-4A champions. That’s got everyone hungry for more.
At least, those wrestlers who aren’t sick to their stomachs.
There have been a couple of bugs floating around the team during the preseason, one that struck during Thanksgiving week and one currently going around now that has caused some wrestlers to miss out on practice this week.
Nevertheless, Los Alamos has high hopes for the 2012-13 season.
Los Alamos opens its regular season Friday at the two-day Southwestern Duals, hosted by Rio Rancho. Teams from across the state, as well as Colorado, Texas and as far away as Nebraska are expected to compete.
The Hilltoppers will be tested against some top-shelf competition, but they feel ready to get their season started.
“Some guys are in very good shape for the beginning of the year,” said Hilltopper veteran Diego Madrid. “But everyone can use more cardio...everyone’s pushing themselves.”
Last season, the Hilltoppers picked up the district title for the first time since 1995, scoring 156 team points and earning a decisive victory over runners-up Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
This year, with a solid nucleus coming back, Los Alamos appears well positioned for a repeat performance.
Among the key returners from last season are Madrid, brothers Cory and Brian Geyer and Arnoldo Ortiz, who won an individual district title last year, his first year with the program.
“The upper weights are going to be pretty solid,” Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer said. “The younger kids are kind of getting thrown to the wolves early on.”
Until two seasons ago, the Hilltoppers struggled to field a full slate of wrestlers, but since then have had complete or near-complete contingents. Los Alamos will have every weight class but 106 pounds heading to Rio Rancho.
Cory Geyer, who made the medal stand at the state Class 4A tournament at 152 pounds, was the only top-six individual finisher, which was something of a disappointing finish for Los Alamos.
This season, Geyer, a senior who finished fourth at state as a sophomore, is moving up to 160 pounds. Lane Saunders, who wrestled varsity as an eighth-grader last season, is taking over at 152 pounds, topping Los Alamos veteran Ben Mitsunaga in a wrestle-off for the starting nod Tuesday – Mitsunaga will go at 170 pounds this weekend.
Brian Geyer, who was called out by his dad prior to last year for taking it too easy in the offseason, has had no such issue this season. His technique and body strength are head-and-shoulders above where they were at this time last year and he could be a serious contender in the 182-pound weight division.
A few other wrestlers have been pleasant surprises this preseason, among them Aaron Hinojos. Hinojos, a rookie last season, redoubled his efforts in the offseason and earned a spot in the starting lineup at 138 pounds.
Freshmen Ty Snyder (126 pounds) and Cameron Sandoval (113 pounds) will travel with the varsity to Rio Rancho as well.
Coach Geyer’s mantra since taking over the program in the 2009-10 has been one acknowledging hard work and learning from mistakes made throughout the season. And, for rookie and veteran alike, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“We need to work on our shots,” Hilltopper Chandler Lauritzen said. “We need to get ourselves focused. It seems unreal that we have a tournament at the end of this week. We have to get ourselves mentally prepared.”
Bob Geyer (4th year)
Ben Mitsunaga, Arnoldo Ortiz
Cory Geyer, Ian Forsyth
John Michael Romero
Mitchell Carson, Marty Salazar
Brian Geyer, Morgan Irish
Peter Brewer, Nathan Aguirre
Brett Holden, John Dermer
Chris Romero, Ty Snyder
Lane Saunders, Joseph Coriz
Dec. 7-8: at Southwest Shoot-
out Duals, 11 a.m.
Dec. 15: at Capital Invite, TBA.
Dec. 22: at Piedra Vista
Jan. 12: at Academy Invite,
Jan. 16: vs. Academy, 3 p.m.
Jan. 26: at Aztec Duals, TBA.
Feb. 1-2: at Cardinal Classic,
Feb. 9: Bryan Sanchez
Memorial Invite, TBA.
Feb. 16: at 2-4A Tournament
(Española Valley), TBA.