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With just a week remaining before its most important competition of the season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team wanted to post a good showing at home Saturday.
And while Los Alamos was, for the most part, able to accomplish that in the Bryan Sanchez Memorial Invitational, the team took more than its share of lumps as well.
At the tournament, held in Auxiliary Gym, the Hilltoppers finished tied for sixth in team competition, grabbing 110 team points and earning four medals.
The tournament, which included several solid teams from the northern New Mexico area, was won by one of the most prolific of those teams, Las Vegas Robertson. Robertson’s Cardinals grabbed 210 team points on the day, 10 more than Valencia, a very good school from central New Mexico.
Hilltopper John Gibson, wrestling at 145 pounds, grabbed a second-place finish in his weight class, as did Hilltopper 135-pounder Cory Geyer. Gary Thorne, the lone senior on the squad, was third in the 171-pound division and Taylor Morrison finished third at 285 pounds.
“It was a pretty good tournament,” Gibson said. “I had some tough matches. It was a really good bracket.”
The news wasn’t all rosy for the Hilltoppers, however. In the first minute of his first scheduled bout of the day, one of Los Alamos’ veteran wrestlers, 152-pounder Desmond Fellers, suffered a dislocated shoulder. While Fellers returned as a spectator later in the afternoon with his arm in a sling, his immediate future is unknown.
The injury comes at the most important time of the season, with the District 2AAAA tournament, which will also be held at Los Alamos, just six days away. And for Fellers, should he not be able to compete at the district tournament, he wouldn’t be eligible to advance to the state meet the following week.
Geyer said that’s out of the teams’ hands at this point, however, and it will try to build off a good showing Saturday.
“I think as a whole everybody fought hard and did their best,” Geyer said. “You kind of regret the injuries...but if everybody wrestles like they did (Saturday), we have a little more show of heart, we have a good shot at second (in district) and maybe even give Española a run for their money.”
The tournament was divided into three pool brackets, then the top finishers in the pool faced off in cross-bracket competition if there were enough competitors.
Gibson, in the green pool, picked up three victories in all three of his bouts, two of them by fall, but was pinned in the final by Española Valley’s Mariano Montoya. Gibson pinned both Ramon Fuentes of Valencia and Guino Sanchez of Capital in impressive fashion during pool competition.
Geyer, meanwhile, earned a major decision over Pecos’ Michael Gomez to open his day Saturday, then bounced back in the fourth round to pin Drew Tavenner of Rio Rancho Cleveland before earning another major decision against a district opponent, Jose Monclova of Bernalillo.
In team competition, Los Alamos finished tied with Bernalillo for sixth place.
Taos, another 2AAAA opponent, had a solid day finishing fourth, while Española Valley, the front-runner for the 2009-10 district title, was third overall with 195 points.
Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer said he was generally pleased with the effort Saturday, but pointed to several close contests his young team had chances to win but came on the short end of.
In rounds one and three we did good, but being young, that inconsistency shows,” he said. “We still wrestle a good match, followed by a bad match, then a good match, followed by a bad match. But they’re further along than I thought they’d be.”
Thorne went 2-1 in the pool round, picking up a fall against Cleveland’s Keith Hunter and a forfeit win against Bernalillo’s Jared Tenorio to advance to the wrestle-offs.
Facing Tucumcari’s Mario Chavez, Thorne controlled the entire bout, executing a textbook duck-under combination which dropped Chavez straight to the mat on his back for an early second round pin.
Thorne said he’s got some great expectations for himself heading into the last district tournament of his career. He’s not going to sweat it too much, however.
“There could be (some pressure),” Thorne said. “But I’m not going to let it get to me. I’d like to win district, do good in front of the home crowd. This is the first time we’ve had district here in a few years.”
Hilltopper 160-pounder Clint Adams, who recently jumped up to that weight from 145, and 215-pounder Martin Salazar both closed out Saturday’s competition with first round pins.