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SANTA FE — The chances were there Saturday for the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team.
They may be there this weekend.
The challenge for the Hilltoppers will be to capitalize on those chances.
Los Alamos, taking part in the District 2AAAA championship tournament Saturday, had some openings and had a couple of chances to put bouts away. Unfortunately, the team didn’t take full advantage of what it set up for itself.
The Hilltoppers finished fifth in the five-team district tournament Saturday. With only eight Hilltoppers competing, the team managed 67 points.
District newcomer Santa Fe earned an impressive win at the tournament, hosted by its cross-town rival, Capital. Santa Fe collected 162 points to hold off Española Valley in second place.
Española Valley, which had its four-year reign on the district snapped last year by Bernalillo, finished with 149 points. Bernalillo edged out Capital for third place with 127 points.
However, the Hilltoppers will be taking most of their wrestlers to the state meet. The top four wrestlers from each weight class advance to the Class 4A tournament, which gets going Friday morning in Rio Rancho.
Los Alamos has high hopes that sophomore Cory Geyer will get a favorable seed in the tournament. Geyer, the top-seeded 145-pound wrestler Saturday, pinned both Michael Chavez of Capital and Florian Castillo of Española Valley to win the first district title of his career.
Geyer and Castillo are not unacquainted.
“Me and Florian have been wrestling since eighth grade,” said Geyer after his win. “This year, he put on some muscle. I was trying to stay in good position…he’s a good wrestler and I knew if I got out of position it would’ve hurt me.”
Geyer and Castillo spent much of the first period circling each other, but Geyer dragged Castillo down and had him on his back in the final :39 of the period to take a 5-0 lead.
At that point, Geyer, who has never lost to Castillo, felt the title was his for the taking.
Castillo started the second period from the bottom position and never got up, with Geyer keeping him on his back for several seconds before Castillo found himself stuck at the 3:44 mark.
In the semifinals, Geyer pinned Chavez with :21 remaining in the first period, a bout he dominated from the get-go.
“It felt amazing,” said Geyer of his district title. “I haven’t really won a whole lot of tournaments. I took my beatings until eighth grade before getting much success. This year, it’s been great. It’s a great feeling, especially at district.”
One other Hilltopper advanced to the finals Saturday. Alyc Montoya, a junior who transferred from Pojoaque — which does not field a wrestling program — this year, made it to the finals of the 135-pound bracket before getting nipped in an overtime period by Capital’s TJ Wisdom.
Montoya, who picked up a comfortable 8-4 victory over No. 2 seed Jose Monclova of Bernalillo to get to the final, swapped escapes with Wisdom in the second and third periods after both wrestlers tumbled all over the mat in the first period but neither being able to score a takedown.
With just :29 remaining in the overtime period, Wisdom tackled Montoya right at the boundary arc, certainly close enough to have the takedown attempt waved off. Instead, the takedown was allowed and Wisdom came away with a 3-1 victory.
Also for Los Alamos, both Ben Mitsunaga at 140 pounds and Brian Geyer at 160 pounds were able to shake off first round losses and capture third place in their weight classes. Mitsunaga’s quick switch off the bottom against Española Valley’s Chris Trujillo translated into an early third period pin, while Brian Geyer needed just :41 to pin Capital’s Andrew Gutierrez in their third place contest.
Los Alamos’ lone senior, Desmond Fellers, wasn’t cleared to wrestle this weekend following another late-season injury, something that kept him out of the district tournament last year as well, while Jodi Cull-Host, a junior, was taking part in a national qualifying tournament which happened to fall on this weekend and was also unavailable.
Hilltopper head coach Bob Geyer said he liked the effort he saw from his team Saturday, but he also saw plenty of opportunities for shots and pin combinations that were left on the table, with at least some of those potentially changing the outcomes of bouts.
With a roster comprised largely of freshmen and sophomores, coach Geyer said, experience, or lack thereof, usually comes into play.
For the Demons, who joined the district just this season, they garnered six individual district titles to pick up the 2AAAA championship.
“They’ve got a lot of kids that are in their juniors program from the get-go,” coach Geyer said of Santa Fe. “We’re just starting to get juniors to the high school. Cory and Brian are juniors who wrestled in Albuquerque. That’s where it’s got to start, at the juniors level.”
For runner-up Española Valley, Dino Gipson earned the most notable individual district title of the day. Gipson, at 125 pounds, pinned Zeke Rivera of Capital in just :27 to claim the fifth 2AAAA title of his career, a streak that started when he was an eighth grader.