'Toppers pick up four titles at Jaguar Invite

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — A trio of Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestlers earned individual titles at Saturday’s Jaguar Invitational.
Los Alamos had four competitors get to the final round of the Jaguar Invitational, hosted by Capital.
Lane Saunders at 170 pounds, Brian Geyer at 195 pounds and Jonathan Schueler in the heavyweight division were all winners at the tournament, which included 14 teams, many of which were from northern New Mexico but some coming from as far away as Deming and even Amarillo, Texas.
Los Alamos finished fourth in team competition Saturday, scoring 128 points. Capital won the team trophy by holding off Los Lunas 189-179. Deming, which brought a huge contingent with it Saturday, finished third with 147.5 points.
Saunders and Geyer won their title bouts handily, but Schueler had a battle on his hands against district rival Troy Calabaza of Bernalillo. Calabaza had Schueler on his back early in the third period, but with about a minute remaining in the contest, Schueler performed a switch from off the bottom to gain the advantage.
Then, with just short time remaining, Calabaza got to his feet and nearly slipped Schueler’s grasp, but Schueler’s head-and-arm throw had Calabaza on his back.
Schueler pinned him with just 12 seconds remaining.
It was a big showing for Los Alamos’ heavyweight, who is wrestling at about 240 pounds — heavyweight features wrestlers who go up to 285 pounds — and who missed last season due to injury.
“It’s going pretty good,” Schueler said of his return. “I have to say that first match today was a little bit of shock, considering it’s been so long. I was definitely running for my life there at the end of that one.”
Calabaza was the No. 1 seed in the 285 weight class and scored two pins, including one of the fastest of the day in his first bout.
Schueler, for his part, nipped Capital’s Jose Cano 1-0 with his escape with just seconds remaining in the second period, then scored a 6-0 win over Santa Fe’s Antonio Castillo in a round he had to re-wrestle due to a paperwork error.
“Most of the bracket today was from our district,” Schueler said. “I think everyone who has a district heavyweight was here, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now.”
The Hilltoppers, in general were pleased with their fourth place finish at the tournament, that occurring without one of their top wrestlers, Chandler Lauritzen, who turned an ankle in practice Friday. He is expected to return this week.
But the other big guns for the Hilltoppers came through with the showing that was expected of them.
“It was a motivation boost, definitely,” Saunders said. “I’m trying to work harder, so it’s easier.”
Saunders is considered one of the main contenders for a state individual title at 170 pounds. He showed why at the tournament.
Saunders scored three consecutive pinfalls, including dropping No. 2 seed David Padron of Deming in the second round to win the bracket, a wrestler he could very well see again in February’s state tournament.
Likewise, Geyer had a dominant showing at 195 pounds, scoring falls over Joe Calderon of Deming, Gerald Sanchez of Los Lunas and a first period pin in the title bout over Jorge Meza of Palo Duro, Texas.
Geyer is a defending state champion and seems to have an inside track at his weight to repeat.
Also surviving to the final round were John Dermer at 220 pounds, who lost in the championship to Santiago Quintana of Española Valley, and Aaron Hinojos at 152 pounds — perhaps the best performance of his career, according to head coach Bob Geyer — who finished fourth.
Alexander Palmer at 113 pounds, Mateo Cardiel at 120 pounds and Dominick Montoya at 138 pounds all earned top-six finishes for the Hilltoppers as well.
“This was a tough tournament,” coach Geyer said. “You’ve got some of the toughest kids in the state here. Los Lunas, you know they’re always tough, they’re always right there. This is a good showing for us.”
Capital, Los Alamos’ biggest stumbling block in its quest to pick up a third consecutive District 2-4A title, earned four individual championships on the day, as well as two runner-up spots and two third-place finishes.
Jose Tapia of Capital crushed Samuel Gurule in the 113-pound championship, while Daniel Ryan won at 120 pounds, Isaiah Anaya won at 145 pounds and Ernestro Salvidrez, who was voted the Outstanding Wrestler of the upper weight classes, cruised to a win at 152 pounds.