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Wrestling: LA hosting a solid slate of teams

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By Mike Cote

It’s considered standard practice to stack a home tournament to give the host team as good a shot as possible to win in front of the local crowd.

Few will accuse the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team of doing that Saturday.

Los Alamos will host the Bryan Sanchez Memorial Tournament Saturday. Wrestling starts at 9 a.m. in Los Alamos High School’s Auxiliary Gym.

A very solid collection of teams will take part in Saturday’s tournament, which was named last season after a former standout Hilltopper wrestler.

Sanchez placed sixth for the Hilltoppers at the 2005 state Class AAAA championship meet. Sanchez was killed in a December 2008 car accident.

Hilltopper head coach Bob Geyer said following the fatal accident, he and then-head coach Eric Sorenson decided to name the tournament in Sanchez’s honor last season. Following the conclusion of competition Saturday, a trophy will be given to one of the current Hilltoppers who best exemplifies Sanchez’s legacy.

“The family decides who gets it,” Geyer said. “The coaching staff has nothing to do with it.”

Saturday’s tournament will be just the second time this season Los Alamos will make a home appearance. The tournament will wrap up Los Alamos’ regular season, although it will host the District 2AAAA championship tournament next week.

Scheduled to attend Saturday’s tournament are all four of Los Alamos’ district opponents — Bernalillo, Capital, Española Valley and Taos — as well as top-shelf Class 5A schools Rio Rancho and Cleveland, which will bring mixes of their varsity and junior varsity wrestlers.

Las Vegas Robertson, one of the predominant powers in Class AAA, has also confirmed its appearance at the tournament. The Hilltoppers competed last week at Robertson, with wrestlers Gary Thorne and Desmond Fellers both advancing to the medal round.

Other scheduled attendees Saturday include Tucumcari, Bataan Military, Newcomb, Valencia and Pecos.

Geyer said most of the weight classes for the Sanchez tournament are filled to capacity. Wrestlers in each weight class will compete in pools of four with the top wrestlers in each pool advancing to the championship brackets.

Rio Rancho won the 2009 tournament despite sending down its JV team rather than its varsity. The Rams racked up 255 points to score a comfortable victory over second-place Valencia. Los Alamos finished seventh at the 2009 event.

Prior to last week’s tournament at Robertson, Los Alamos was snowed out from a scheduled appearance at Valley. Los Alamos also lost a day of practice Wednesday due to another snowstorm, although Geyer said that wasn’t a huge deal for his team.

“We pushed it hard Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “I wasn’t too upset about (Wednesday). It would’ve been good to get the cardio up and check weights, but most of our guys can just walk in and make weight.”

Geyer said the team, other than a couple of sniffles, is pretty healthy heading toward the end of the season.

For insurance purposes, however, Geyer is bringing up a pair of eighth-graders for the balance of 2009-10. Chandler Lauritzen, who got in a couple of exhibition bouts during Los Alamos’ previous home meet Jan. 13, is scheduled to start for Los Alamos at 112 pounds Saturday, while Peter Brewer, at 152 pounds, has also been working out with the team since the conclusion of the middle school season and could fill in at the tournament if need be.

Los Alamos, barring the unforeseen, will head into the next two weekends’ tournaments with all their weight classes save one filled. It is lacking only a 130-pounder at this point, a good sign for a team that finished last season with  eight healthy grapplers.