Wrestling: All 9 Toppers will head to 4A tourney

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By Mike Cote

Doing more with less was the key last week, something Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team hopes to continue this weekend.

In the District 2AAAA tournament, held last weekend at Bernalillo, the Hilltoppers qualified all nine of the grapplers they brought with them to the meet. Because of some big individual performances, Los Alamos grabbed a second-place finish at the tournament, something that surprised almost everyone, particularly the third-place Bernalillo Spartans whom Los Alamos edged out.

Los Alamos won’t have a lot of time to celebrate, however, because it heads this weekend to the Class AAAA state championship tournament. The tournament starts at noon Friday and continues through Saturday. Bracket seeding is scheduled for Thursday.

Other than some fine-tuning, Los Alamos didn’t have much planned for its week of preparation for the state meet, which will be held at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Kory Nelson, who won the district 130-pound bracket despite wrestling most of the season at 125 pounds, said he’ll be geared up come Friday’s first round.

“I definitely want to go as hard as I can,” said Nelson, a senior. “I don’t want any regrets when I leave.”

Los Alamos medaled two wrestlers last season — Paul Martinez at 112 pounds and Blaine Lattin at 189 pounds — falling well short of its stated goal of picking up six top-6 finishes at the event.

This season, the Hilltoppers are hoping to ride the wave of good feelings from their district finish into the state wrestle-offs.

“Everyone looked good,” Los Alamos head coach Eric Sorensen said after the district tournament. “We talked that it’s not just about physical conditioning, but being prepared mentally.”

It would be unrealistic to think Los Alamos, with just nine wrestlers, will be able to compete in team competition against the entire AAAA field, especially with top programs such as Belen, Silver and Aztec well represented, not to mention 2AAAA team champion Española Valley.

Martinez, who finished second behind Española Valley’s Dylan Dominguez at the district tournament, was Los Alamos’ longest-lasting wrestler in the top half of the bracket last season, pulling off an upset over Santa Teresa’s Jesse Zavala in the second round on his way to the 112-pound semifinals.

Although his sixth-place finish last season will be taken into account when seedings are done, Martinez, a senior, could be saddled with a tough opening round due to his 13-15 record on the season.

Lattin, also a senior, bounced back from a second-round loss to Piedra Vista’s Jesus Moreno to make his way though the consolation bracket to a sixth-place finish.

Lattin returns in the 189-pound bracket and could potentially get a top-four seeding with his stellar 27-4 record on the season. Only Santa Teresa’s Fabian Lopez (.879) goes into the draw with a better winning percentage and only Lopez and Saul Urbina of Moriarty (35-8) have won more bouts.

The Hilltoppers will bring three youngsters with them to the tournament. Freshmen Jodi Cull-Host (103 pounds) and Nate Robbins (215 pounds) made the championship draw, as did eighth-grader Cory Geyer (119 pounds).

Both Cull-Host and Geyer had to win their finales at the district tournament to qualify for the tournament and both did so in impressive fashion. Cull-Host pinned rival Cristal Ortiz of Capital in the third round of their qualifying bout and Geyer won two straight bouts in the consolation bracket, including topping Matt Siva, the wrestler who knocked him out of the championship bracket, in the third-place bout.

Robbins, meanwhile, has been trying to shake off the effects of a rib injury suffered earlier this month. Sorenson elected to have Robbins concede the 215-pound district championship to Bernalillo’s Carl Lente last week rather than have Robbins risk further injury.

Zak Wilde at 160 will go into that bracket with an impressive record (21-4), but 160 is one of the toughest brackets in the tournament. In all, seven 160s finished the season with 20-plus wins. Juan Carlos Maynes of Silver posted a gaudy 22-1 record on the season and   Moriarty’s Kiki Salcido and Belen’s Bryce Cargile both cracked 35 wins.

Desmond Fellers enters the draw as the third-place finisher in 2AAAA at 140 pounds and Gary Thorne, who saved his best work for late in the regular season, is the third-place district qualifier at 171 pounds.