LA picks up six medals at Class 4A tourney

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By Mike Cote

RIO RANCHO — It wasn’t so very long ago that the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team would’ve felt fortunate to finish any better than the bottom five at the state Class 4A tournament.
This season, the Hilltoppers had one of the five best finishes in the 4A tournament.
Los Alamos snagged 137.5 points to earn fifth place in the 4A championship event, held last weekend at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Along the way, Los Alamos picked up six top-six medals, including a state championship in the 182-pound weight class.
Brian Geyer defeated Los Lunas’ Mark Hussey in a nail-biting championship bout that Geyer trailed in until late in the final period. With his win, Geyer became the first Los Alamos wrestler to clinch a state individual title since Dave Phillips and Ian Christian accomplished that feat in 1996.
“That was our goal, a top-five finish at state,” said Los Alamos head coach Bob Geyer, father to both Brian and Cory Geyer, who was the state runner-up at 160 pounds. “The kids stepped up huge. The kids all gave something to the cause.”
As expected, the Piedra Vista Panthers ran away with the state 4A team title. The Panthers earned 314.5 points, the most of any of the teams in the three-classification event, while Los Lunas finished as the state runner-up with 176.5 points.
Los Alamos actually had to hold off its District 2-4A rival Capital for fifth place. Capital had a slight lead over Los Alamos in the team standings heading into Brian Geyer’s championship match, but his win gave Los Alamos a 3.5-point edge over the Jaguars.
Cory Geyer, wrestling the final bout of his prep career, was nipped by Wyatt Hardy of Piedra Vista, 4-3, in their state title meeting. Hardy rolled Geyer onto his back just long enough to get a 2-point nearfall in the third period. Geyer escaped Hardy with :14 remaining, but couldn’t get much going in the final few seconds.
Prior to that contest, Geyer, the No. 1 seed at 160, dropped Kirtland Central’s Aaron Frank by technical fall, defeated Andres Villa of Goddard 5-1 and topped Los Lunas’ Mikey Martinez 5-1 in the semifinal round.
Along with the Geyers, Lane Saunders (152 pounds) and Arnoldo Ortiz (170) took third place in Class 4A. Chandler Lauritzen had a fifth-place finish at 132 pounds and Diego Madrid was sixth at 220.
Lauritzen, who went two-and-out in the double-elimination tournament last season, said he made the commitment to himself to improve on that finish this year.
“This year, I got to go to Adams State (wrestling camp), worked on my technique,” Lauritzen said. “I got stronger over the summer. This year, I was ready. I knew I could do well this year.”
Ortiz had to bounce back from a semifinal round loss against Aztec’s Adam Lucero to get back to the third-place contest, but earned decisions over both Fabian Soto of Goddard and Ramon Fuentes of Valencia for his medal.
More than for himself, Ortiz said he was glad to see the team have its best finish since the mid-1990s at state.
“We’re really happy,” Ortiz said. “I don’t remember the last time we had a top-5 finish ever. It was a great turnout and we had some great wrestlers. I’ll miss them next year.”
Coach Geyer noted that in the 2009-10 season, his first guiding the program, Los Alamos finished dead last in the final team standings. The next year, the Hilltoppers were next-to-last.
There was some doubt after the 2008-09 season the Hilltopper program would exist into the following year — Geyer was the only applicant for the vacant coaching job — but the program has gotten healthy again in a relatively short period of time.