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Wrestling: LA takes seventh in season opener

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — Just about everything the Los Alamos Hilltopper varsity wrestling team set out to do got done this weekend, and then some.The big thing on the agenda for Los Alamos at the Jaguar Invitational, hosted by Capital High School, was simply for everyone on the squad to get some quality time on the mat and try to avoid any early exits.Of the seven Hilltoppers who competed this week, six of them advanced in the tournament, and four of those grapplers advanced to the medal round.“It’s definitely a good start,” Hilltopper captain Blaine Lattin said. “We did amazing this weekend. There’s still some fine-tuning stuff we need to get. Conditioning wasn’t as good as I thought, but that’s easily fixed.”Lattin, wrestling at 189 pounds, was one of two Hilltoppers to advance to the championship round in his weight class. He scored a pair of impressive pins en route to the title bout in the tournament before losing a nip-and-tuck decision to Santa Fe’s Raymond Guardado, 7-4.Despite having just seven wrestling in the varsity tournament, Los Alamos still managed a solid seventh-place finish overall, earning 78 team points. Tascosa High School, from Amarillo, Texas, won the team competition with 156 points, holding off both Santa Fe and Amarillo Palo Duro.Kory Nelson at 125 pounds — the first tournament of his career wrestling at that weight — also advanced to the championship round before getting upended in a major decision by Española Valley’s Dino Gipson 13-2.Also for Los Alamos, Kameron Sanders at 130 pounds and Zak Wilde at 160 got to the consolation final of their respective brackets, but both lost in decisions.Following the tournament, Los Alamos head coach Eric Sorenson was upbeat about his team’s performance and what it might mean for the season to come.“Nothing concerned me,” Sorenson said when asked if he saw any trouble spots in the team’s first outing. “Conditioning could be better, but it’s early in the year. I believe we were in better condition than most of our opponents…nice season opener.”Along with the ’Toppers who made it to Saturday’s medal round, Eric Carlson, a senior heavyweight who came out for wrestling only this season, came back from a first-round loss to make it to the consolation semifinals, and Brandon May at 152 pounds pinned Abel Uigarraga of Peñasco in his first bout, but fell to Taos’ Lorenzo Martinez and Robertson’s Gozie Okoro in his next two contests.Both May and Wilde were wrestling up a weight class from where they’re projected to be. Sorenson said that both came into the tournament a little heavy, but Sorenson said they should be down in time for the Piedra Vista Invitational Dec. 21.Wilde, for his part, pinned Peñasco’s David Lopez in the first round, but was beaten handily by Jacob Bevington of Tascosa 15-0. Bevington would go on to finish second in 160 behind Santa Fe’s Travis Saxon.Less than an hour after that defeat, Wilde came back to face Taos’ Felix Padilla in one of the toughest bouts of the day.Wilde and Padilla exchanged headlocks in the first period, but neither scored. Padilla chose down in the second period, and although Wilde did a good job of getting and keep Padilla broken down, the two went scoreless into the final period.With Wilde choosing down to open, he executed a quick shoulder roll, taking Padilla with him. Wilde ended up on top, scoring a two-point reversal, which would ultimately be the difference in the contest.It was a gutsy effort by Wilde right after a rough championship bracket defeat.“I did get beat by a better wrestler,” Wilde said. “Consolation is never fun, but you have to forget about it and come back stronger.”In the consolation finals, Wilde fell 10-2 to a tough Logan Wiser of Goddard.In the other consolation final for Los Alamos, Sanders fell into a big 8-0 hole to Palo Duro’s Lee Grant, but rallied late in the third period. With about a minute to go, Sanders scored a reversal, then with under 20 seconds remaining, Sanders locked Grant’s arm and had him for a two-point near fall, but time expired before Sanders could make a full comeback.Following Nelson’s rough outing in the title bout against Gipson, a wrestler he will likely run into at the District 2AAAA championship, Lattin went tooth-and-nail with Guardado for the 189 championship.Lattin had to rally from a 4-1 deficit after one period, tripping up Guardado midway through the second round to tie the score at 4-4.Early in the third period, however, Guardado broke Lattin’s grasp to pick up a point. Lattin had to play some last-second catch-up, and Guardado caught him in a desperation shot attempt to push his edge to 7-4, which is how the bout would end.Lattin said that while he was happy with his finish — although he believed he scored a second period takedown that was called out of the circle — he was most impressed with his teammates’ efforts.“It was definitely a very good weekend,” he said. “We’ve got to shake the rust off, but we did a pretty good job of that the entire time.”