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It was the goal of the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team to end its season in style, as is always the case when it hosts the Bryan Sanchez Invitational tournament.
And Los Alamos managed that, taking second place in the 12-team tournament Saturday at the Auxiliary Gymnasium.
Los Alamos finished with 148 team points at the tournament, trailing only Las Vegas Robertson in the team standings. Robertson’s Cardinals grabbed 160 points.
Along the way, the Hilltoppers picked up three individual wins.
Saturday’s tournament was the regular season finale for Los Alamos, which will now prepare to defend its back-to-back district titles at Bernalillo this coming weekend.
The Sanchez tournament carries special significance to the Hilltopper program. It is held to honor the memory of one a departed alumni and the most significant team award of the year is given out.
The recipient of the Bryan Sanchez Award for this season was Nathan Aguirre, who was selected by the Sanchez family as the Hilltopper who most embodies Sanchez’s spirit.
Sanchez was a graduate of Los Alamos’ program. He died in an automobile accident on Christmas Eve 2008 at the age of 21.
Aguirre, who has known Rita Sanchez, a Spanish teacher at Los Alamos Middle School and Bryan’s mother, said he recalled going to her class soon after the accident.
“I felt so bad,” Aguirre said. “For me to represent, well, not so much to represent, but to have his characteristics. It’s an honor to receive this trophy.”
It has been something of an up-and-down season for Aguirre. He got off to a slow start this year but picked it up in the middle of the season and feel he’s doing some of his best work here late in the year.
Aguirre, for his part Saturday, finished third at 152 pounds. He pinned Kirtland Central’s Kyle Jim in the third-place bout midway through the second period.
It was generally a good day for the Hilltoppers, head coach Bob Geyer said afterward, to finish off its regular season.
Los Alamos picked up victories at 170 pounds, 195 pounds and heavyweight. At 170, Lane Saunders won the round-robin format tournament, topping runner-up Jose Estrada of Robertson for the victory in that weight class.
Saunders looked strong most of the way Saturday and should be the favorite at his weight class heading into the 2-4A tournament.
Heavyweight Jonathan Schueler had little trouble rolling to a victory in his weight class. To win he pinned runner-up Patrick Irish of Los Alamos’ junior varsity team — the two bowled around on the mat a couple of times in jest before Schueler earned that victory.
And at 195 pounds, Brian Geyer cruised to the win.
Geyer, who is the odds-on favorite to pick up his second consecutive state title in two weeks, spent most of his day practicing on specific takedowns and other moves he might need at state against his opponents, virtually all of them he could’ve defeated quickly had he chosen to do so.
Along with those three and Aguirre’s third-place finish, Aaron Hinojos took second at 160 pounds. To earn the runner-up spot, Hinojos had to rally from an early deficit to pin Kirtland Central’s Matt Muñoz in their third-round bout.
Aguirre said he knew it was going to be a challenge for the team coming in, after its heavy graduation losses this season, but he’s welcomed that challenge.
“We had to step up quite a bit,” he said. “It’s been fun.”