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A pair of Los Alamos Hilltopper sports are beginning the end of their season this weekend.
Both the Hilltopper wrestling team and the Hilltopper boys and girls swimming and diving teams will go into the final two weekends of their season. They will be competing at their two respective district meets Saturday.
Team results at those district championships, however, are hardly what any of the squads are worried about.
The swimming teams are heading to their district meet, which is being hosted by Farmington, mostly out of necessity. This is the first year districts are required to hold a district meet.
The reason for holding the meet is questionable at best, as the district meet does nothing but determine district team and individual championships. A district championship, however, will not qualify an individual for the following week’s state meet unless he or she meets the already-set standard time for that event, which athletes can do at any meet during the regular season.
Because there is no ingrained significance to a district championship, Los Alamos won’t take many more swimmers to the district meet than those still looking to qualify for state in particular events.
Los Alamos co-head coach Cindy Black said the teams would take the district meet more seriously “if they allowed, like in track, the top one or two qualify for state. But you don’t get that in swimming.”
Among the Hilltoppers scheduled to make the trip to Farmington are Taylor Montoya, Andy Zhao and Adam Izraelevitz, three swimmers who are on the cusp of qualifying for state but have not yet done so.
To prepare for this meet and the state meet, scheduled for Feb. 20-21, Los Alamos wanted to step up its tapering this week. Black said she thought some of her swimmers looked tired at Saturday’s Los Alamos Open.
“We need to get in some more rest,” she said. “That’s our next focus.”
Heading into the district meet, Los Alamos has at least two team qualifiers in every boys and girls event except boys diving.
For the Hilltopper wrestlers, however, their one and only chance to qualify for the state tournament is Saturday at the 2AAAA tournament.
Unlike the past several seasons, the district championship will be a singles tournament format.
Previously, the district had used a duals system with the individual district championship being determined by wrestlers’ won-loss record in their bouts.
Los Alamos will be trying for its first district title since 1995, although a lot of things will have to go right for the Hilltoppers to have any kind of chance.
The Hilltoppers will likely go into the tournament with the second-smallest team in the district — only Taos has had smaller teams appear in common events this season. Even if Los Alamos’ wrestlers sweep all of their weight class district titles, teams like Española Valley and Bernalillo will still probably have to turn in subpar performances for the Hilltoppers to sneak out a team victory.
But last week at the Los Alamos Round Robin, Los Alamos had just six wrestlers taking part.
Others, notably Kory Nelson and Nate Robbins, were missing due to injury or illness.
“With a small team, the team results, you kind of have to put that aside,” Hilltopper head coach Eric Sorenson said.
Los Alamos will mostly be concerned with grabbing one of the top two slots at the district tournament so individuals can advance to the state meet, which will also be held Feb. 20-21. The state tournament will be at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
Española Valley’s Sundevils will head into the tournament as the favorite to take their fourth straight 2AAAA team title.
Individually, Blaine Lattin will be the hands-down favorite to win at 189 pounds, while Zak Wilde, who had a dominant showing last week, will go in as the favorite at 160 pounds.
Lattin, who won the district title in 2006-07 without wrestling a single bout and who stuck three different competitors last season to defend his title, feels good about his chance to repeat.
“Going into district, it’s going to be tough,” he said. “There’s some good competition, but mentally, I think I can handle it. Physically, I’m right there.”
Should Nelson go into Saturday’s tournament healthy, he could well go up against Española Valley’s Dino Gipson for the 125-pound title, a bout that could potentially be the best contest of the entire championship.
Bernalillo will host Saturday’s tournament. Capital, which Los Alamos beat in a home dual Jan. 14, will also compete for the district title.
In swimming, Los Alamos competes in District 1 — there is only one state swimming classification — with 15 other schools, including Farmington, Santa Fe, Taos and Gallup.