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RIO RANCHO — A pair of Los Alamos Hilltoppers made it to the consolation finals at the Class AAAA wrestling championship tournament last weekend.
The tournament was held Friday and Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
Blaine Lattin finished third for the Hilltoppers Saturday, bouncing back from a loss to open Saturday’s competition, while Zak Wilde grabbed a fourth-place finish for Los Alamos at the tournament.
Wilde and Lattin led a spirited effort for Los Alamos’ wrestlers on the weekend, making for a solid ending to a season that didn’t start out terribly promising.
“These kids are a bunch of dedicated athletes,” Los Alamos head coach Eric Sorenson said. “Most of them worked hard all season, we had a few injuries, but all-around this weekend was not too bad.”
Wilde was the only Hilltopper to make it through day one unscathed. Wilde, wrestling in the brutal 160-pound weight class, earned a first round pinfall against Farmington’s Kalen Uselman, then held on to his late lead to knock off Kirtland Central’s Stormy Hogue.
Hogue and Wilde had nearly identical records heading into the quarterfinal contest, with Hogue posting a 20-5 record on the season and Wilde a 21-4.
Wilde reversed Hogue with a textbook head-and-arm leading straight into a 3-point near-fall to take control of the bout in the second period. But in the final period, Hogue rallied from 6-2 down, scoring an escape with under a minute to go, followed by a takedown with just :09 remaining, but couldn’t tie the score before time expired.
“At the tail-end, he was just kind of in a scramble position,” Wilde said. “I thought I could give up two points and be up by one, or keep fighting and maybe give up three or four. I knew if I kept his hand he wouldn’t be able to do anything in the last few seconds.”
Wilde said after the win that while he was personally very happy to be headed to the state semifinals his senior year, despite having to face two-time defending champion Juan Carlos Maynes of Silver in Saturday’s semifinal, he was disappointed that teammates Kory Nelson and Lattin wouldn’t be joining him in the final two rounds.
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” he said. “I’m stoked that I’m in the semifinals, but I’m bummed because Blaine and Kory aren’t there. We’ve been together, doing this for four years.”
Nelson lost a hard-fought overtime decision to Kirtland Central’s Brady Fourr, 3-1. Fourr muscled his way to a takedown with just :21 remaining in the overtime period, that coming after Nelson expended a lot of energy trying to make a late third period break off the bottom in the last :13 of the third period.
The officiating was spotty in the quarterfinal contest. An awarded takedown to Fourr was waved off in the first period, while both Nelson and Fourr were awarded questionable penalty points in the other two regulation periods.
Nelson, who wrestled at 125 pounds for most of the regular season but moved up to 130 for the District 2AAAA tournament the previous week, didn’t make it through day one.
He was bumped out of competition in the second consolation round, falling to Belen’s Jordan Freidt 8-2.
Friday’s first round was rough for the Hilltoppers, with only three seniors advancing in the championship bracket of Los Alamos’ nine entries.
Nelson drubbed Aztec’s Casey Ford for at 130, pinning him in just 43 seconds in, at the time the fastest pin of the AAAA tournament. At 160, Wilde pinned Uselman with just three seconds remaining in the first period.
At 189, Lattin went toe-to-toe with Joe Martinez of Grants. In the second period, Martinez, starting the period on the top, caught Lattin twice in inside cradles — because Lattin kept his right shoulder on Martinez’s left, he was never in serious jeopardy of being pinned — scoring big points, but Lattin’s late period reversal, putting Martinez on his back as time expired, tied the score at 6-6.
Lattin hit Martinez with a deep double-leg shot and pinned him late in the period to advance.
Beyond those three, however, things didn’t exactly go as Los Alamos had hoped. The only one of the six Hilltoppers who fell in the first round to escape the first period of their openers was Jodi Cull-Host, with two wrestlers not even surviving the first minute.
Cull-Host, at 103 pounds, could never get much going against Deming’s Joshua Santana, having to hang on through two long Santana pin attempts, one in the first period and one in the third. She fell 12-1 to drop in the consolation bracket, but was the only Hilltopper not to succumb to a pin.
Paul Martinez at 112, who last year lasted longer than any other Los Alamos grappler in the championship bracket, fell to Dylan Dominguez of Española Valley, the same wreslter who knocked him off in the District 2AAAA championship tournament six days earlier.
Martinez, Cory Geyer (103 pounds), Desmond Fellers (140), Gary Thorne (171) and Nate Robbins (215) were all first round pin victims.
Following the rough start, things went a little better for Los Alamos’ wrestlers in Friday’s opening consolation round.
Of the six who dropped into the consolation bracket, four survived to advance to Friday’s second consolation round. Cull-Host earned a forfeit, Martinez pinned Eugene Holgat of Taos midway through the second period, Thorne pinned Atrisco Heritage’s Matthew Lujan late in the second period and Robbins took a tight decision over Volcano Vista’s Martin Molina.
Robbins, who has been struggling with a rib injury late in the season, tried mostly to fend off Molina’s labored shots.
At the 1:30 mark of the third period Robbins, working off the bottom to start the period, stood up and broke Molina’s grasp to earn the only point he would need.
“We were both kind of the same strength,” Robbins said of his second contest Friday. “We couldn’t muscle each other around so we had to use technique, but we had the same technique, too.”
Robbins said following his first consolation bout that his ribs were a little sore but weren’t a big factor for him.
He would go on to lose in the second consolation round, however, to Luke Candelaria of St. Pius X via a third period pin.
Thorne, meanwhile, got hot with his back against the wall. Thorne, who slugged his way to a top three finish in district to advance to the state bracket, bounced back from his quick opening round loss to pin Atrisco Heritage’s Matthew Lujan in the second round and followed that up with another early second round pin to knock Kirtland Central’s Dalton Dodge out of the tournament.
Thorne would eventually fall one round short of the medals, however, losing to Luis Aguirre in Saturday’s competition.
“Gary did a pretty darn good job,” Sorenson said. “Hopefully, he’ll be pumped and ready for his senior year next year.”
Martinez made it through to Saturday’s consolation quarterfinals by knocking off Farmington’s Dylan Salazar 2-0 in his final bout of day one.
Martinez took the 2-0 lead just 11 seconds into the first period and never surrendered it. He worked off the bottom throughout the second and third periods, never getting into any serious trouble through all that time.
Following that win, Martinez said his big goal after going up in the first round was to conserve his energy and play defense.
“I just wanted to take it easy,” he said. “I’m already drained ... especially because I lost the first one. You’ve got to wrestle all the way back.”
Martinez, too, fell just short of the medal competition, losing Saturday to Roswell’s Jordan Padilla.
Wilde lost a 9-2 decision to Maynes, who was upset in his bid for a third state title by Belen’s Bryce Cargile in the championship bout Saturday.
Wilde came back to upend Hogue again, but lost a tight 5-1 contest to Moriarty’s Kiki Salcido in the consolation final.
Sorenson said Wilde, who has been battling shoulder problems all day, nearly had his shoulder separate twice in his final two contests.
Lattin had a big second period to beat Deven Jacquez of Farmington, the wrestler who knocked him out of the championship bracket, in the consolation semifinals 8-3, then scored a second period pin over Julius Begay of Aztec to close out the tournament.