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Capital is in hunt for state wrestling title

February 18, 2017

RIO RANCHO — Marcos Gallegos has been around long enough to know that state wrestling championships aren’t necessarily won by the teams carting off the most individual weight class titles.

In his 14th season with Capital, the Jaguars’ head coach knows that if his team has any realistic shot at capturing its first state championship Saturday, the wrestlers in consolation bracket of the Class 5A draw will have to do most of the heavy lifting.

“Backside is where it’s at, man,” he said. “You can put as many guys as you want in the finals, but if you don’t help from your guys in the back, it’s going to be hard. I don’t remember what year it was, but Eldorado [in 2006] won it and they put one guy in the finals. Everybody else was placing. Backside’s important.”

Capital ended Day 1 of the state wrestling tournament Friday at the Santa Ana Star Center in second place in 5A. The Jaguars’ 82.5 points was 14 points shy of Belen and 11 better than third-place Aztec.

Seven of Capital’s 13 wrestlers survived Friday’s opening rounds to reach the semifinals on Saturday morning. Six more were all faring well in the consolation bracket, but one — 170-pounder Daniel Guerra — was disqualified when he came in below the minimum weight. He tipped the scales Friday morning at 152; he was required to be at a minimum of 154.

Gallegos took ownership of the situation, saying there aren’t many things he can say to console Guerra.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do,” Gallegos said. “You just got to tell him thank you for what you did this season. … Hopefully it drives him to want it more next year.”

If anyone can understand what Guerra’s feeling, it’s Santa Fe High’s Isaiah Martinez. A junior who cruised through Friday’s first two rounds into the 6A semifinals at 152 pounds, Martinez suffered the same fate at last year’s tournament when he missed weight by 6 ounces.

“Not easy, not easy sitting there watching this tournament and not being out there,” Martinez said. “It made me want to come back this year and finish it. I’m more focused now than I ever have been. I came in here as ready as I ever have been.”

Santa Fe High cracked the top 10 in the team category, checking in at ninth with 61 points after Friday’s action. Cleveland is the runaway leader with 108 points, followed by Rio Rancho, Piedra Vista and Carlsbad. The Demons are well within striking range of a number of teams; they trail Las Cruces for seventh by just six points and are 16 behind Volcano Vista for fifth.

The 4A team chase has become a two-team battle between Cobre and Silver, with Robertson a distant third. The Cardinals are 21 points off Cobre’s pace while Silver is just four back. Taos is fourth with Pecos and St. Michael’s tied for sixth.

With 5A still up for grabs, it leaves the focus on the six Jaguars still alive for state titles. That includes the unbeatable — literally unbeatable — Jose Tapia at 138 pounds. In five years as a varsity wrestler, he has never been beaten on the mat. All four of his career losses came by disqualification for not making weight.

He breezed through both rounds Friday, needing just 34 seconds to pin Goddard’s Jeremiah Garcia and 1:51 to pin Kirtland Central’s Jalen Platero. As always, he said he drew some of his energy from the crowd.

More than that, Tapia is savoring every last moment of his amazing high school career. With two more wins Saturday, he will become just the seventh wrestler in New Mexico history to win five state titles in as many years.

“I’l probably get a little emotional,” he said.

If anything, Tapia wouldn’t mind a challenge. It generally takes him one period (or less) to find his opponent’s weakness and use it to his advantage.

“Good guys, you’ll never figure them out because they’re trying to figure you out so it’s just always going to be changing,” Tapia said.

Just moments before Tapia took to the mat for his quarterfinal win over Platero, his teammate Alex Wisdom did the same in his match against Justin Perez of Santa Teresa. That one went the distance, although Wisdom cruised to a 13-4 majority decision.

Limping as he headed off, Wisdom said it was nothing more than a leg cramp. His biggest physical ailment, he said, was the still-broken nose he’s got from a trip to a tournament at Robertson last month. Just seconds into his initial match that weekend, he was head-butted, which left his nose curved into a slight crescent shape. He has a deviated septum on his left nostril.

“Yeah, sleeping’s no fun,” Wisdom said. “As long as you don’t hit me in the face. Sometimes when I have someone on their back, they’ll try to push up on my face and, yeah, it’ll hurt, but pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

He’s scheduled to have his nose re-broken and set again after the season. More than that, Wisdom said, he’s motivated by something else. Seeded third at 132 pounds instead of No. 1 despite having beaten the top overall seed twice this winter, Wisdom said the issue with his nose is secondary to setting the record straight.

“If I were looking for motivation, that’s it,” Wisdom said. “Third? Really?”

TOURNAMENT NOTES

Class 4A: A number of locals have reached Saturday’s semifinals, including three of the four in the heavyweight division as Shaun Lave of St. Michael’s is opposite the final-four pairing of Babatunde Okundaye (Robertson) and Cesar Saenz (Pecos).

Top-seeded Julian Brittain of St. Michael’s won his only match Friday in 38 seconds and will take his 24-2 record into the semifinals. Other top seeds such as Tierra Encantada’s Martin Rodriguez (182), Pojoaque Valley’s Javier Tapia (152) and Robertson’s’ Tristan Trujillo (145) also advanced with pins.

Trujillo will face Sam Baca of St. Michael’s in the semifinals, the first of two semifinals between the Cardinals and Horsemen. Robertson’s Jonathan Trujillo, the top seed at 138, will meet Dominic Smith of St. Michael’s.

Another Robertson wrestler, Andrew Trujillo, is the top seed at 106 and needed less than a minute to pin each of his two opponents in the opening rounds.

STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Saturday: Semifinals 9 a.m., consolation finals 1:30 p.m., championship matches 4 p.m.

Where: Santa Ana Star Center, Rio Rancho

Tickets: $5 students/senior citizens; $8 adults; $12 full-day admission

Tournament results: www.nmact.org/wrestling