Tigers are deep, but won’t be at full strength right away


Last wrestling season featured the Tiger wrestling team overcoming some key injuries and qualifying a wrestler in every weight class for the state tournament. With only two seniors in that group, it would seem that the Los Lunas wrestling prospects should be set higher than their fifth place finish at state last year.

News-Bulletin file photo: Ricardo Alvarado Jr., bottom, is one of the Los Lunas High seniors who hope to help lead the Tiger wrestling team to its first state title since 1998. Los Lunas opens the season by hosting the Tiger Invite on Saturday, Dec. 8.

The Tigers are hoping to avoid injuries that hampered them last year and return to the 2011 form that saw the Los Lunas team capture third place in the state tournament.

The strength of the Tiger team will come from several returning state medalists and a couple of key returning wrestlers from injury last season.

The Tigers are ranked third in Class 4A in the News-Bulletin’s 2012-13 statewide preseason coaches poll, behind Piedra Vista and Belen.

Los Lunas will see both teams early and is affected by the success of the Tiger football team that has advanced to the state semifinals.

The Tiger grapplers open with a dual against Atrisco Heritage on the Tiger mats starting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5.

The Los Lunas Invite follows on Saturday, Dec. 5, followed by a visit to Capital on Dec. 15 and a duals tourney on the mats of Piedra Vista on Dec. 22.

The team will probably not be up to full strength through that early schedule with six wrestlers delayed by the football playoffs.

Coach Steve Chavez noted that it will take some practice time for the football players to get into wrestling shape.

“Wrestling is a different animal,” said the coach, now in his eighth year at Los Lunas. “They come to me chunky, and I whip them into shape. Football is more of a spur-of-the-moment explosion.

“You have to really be in condition to wrestle. It is endurance.”

Isaac Parra, Mikey Martinez, Nick Aragon, Adam Coughlin and Charles and George Truesdell will all be transformed under Chavez’s watchful eye after the football season is completed.

But the depth of the team will be affected by some of those wrestlers who got state experience last year, failing to make the team in 2012-13. Many of the absent players are “working through issues” that Chavez would not detail.

Still, the Tigers are solid in many weight classes, led by Parra and Miguel Alvarado.

Parra finished third in the 170-pound class at state last year. In his senior season, the 2010-11 state champion is looking for a potential state championship at either 170 or 182.

Miguel Alvarado, a junior, was the only Tiger to wrestle in the championship round at state last year. He lost to Anthony Juckes of Piedra Vista in the 113-pound state final, and is seeking a state title at 120 this season.

Although the Tigers lost Gabe Almager, Matthew Contreras and Justin Cordova, they should be fine, especially in the upper weight classes. They’ll be led by senior Charles Truesdell at 195 and his brother, sophomore George Truesdell, at 285. Charles was third at state last year at 195.

Coughlin, a senior, is returning at 220 as a state qualifier last season.

The Tigers will be strong at the lower weights with state qualifiers Gabe Alvarado (132 pounds) and Ricardo Alvarado, Jr. (126) returning and moving up a weight class.

Chavez will get his lineup bolstered by a couple of wrestlers who missed last season but have been in the program in previous years. Aragon looks to fill a spot at 152 or 160 and Joseph Sanchez will return at 132 or 138.

Martinez is a potential state placer in one of the middle weight classes after missing the state tournament last year with an injury.

The Los Lunas Invite field will be an early test because the field is very tough. The toughest opponents at the tourney will be Belen, Mayfield, Deming and Rio Grande.

“You don’t wrestle everyone,” said Chavez of the tourney format, “but you will encounter a horse along the way.”

That will help fill out the middle that will see the losses of Ty TenBrink and Monte Dibble, as well as a vacancy at 138 pounds.

Chavez did not say specifically why TenBrink and Dibble are not on the team. But he did say he was disappointed that some kids come out early and then fade when the season starts, lacking the mental toughness and discipline to continue.

“They just don’t feel it,” said Chavez. “They don’t get it. They miss out, because they don’t want to work. I was hoping to have some kids come out. They want to be a part of it, but they want the easy way in.”

He praised the dedication of those who have stuck it out.

“The kids that are out, they want it,” Chavez said. “Attitude means everything.”

-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.