Belen wrestlers first, Tigers third at Kirby

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It isn’t very often that the Belen and Los Lunas wrestling teams leave the same tournament smiling and laughing, each with a trophy in hand.

That’s what happened Saturday at the end of the Leonard Kirby Invite at Belen High. The Eagles beat Silver in the championship dual, while the Tigers, despite not having a wrestler at either 152 or 182 pounds, beat Deming to place third.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Matthew Lucero is about to pin his Deming opponent in a Leonard Kirby Invite dual Saturday. The Eagles won all five duals to take first place at the tourney, while Los Lunas had one narrow loss, and placed third.

“I feel like we really came together for this tournament,” said BHS coach Lee Chaves. “We had some tough matchups. Our guys saw great 4A competition.”

The Eagles were set to host Albuquerque High for a dual on Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time. Both Belen and Los Lunas are set to compete Friday and Saturday in the Cardinal Classic, held at Robertson High in Las Vegas, N.M.

“I think we did great at the Kirby,” said LLHS coach Steve Chavez, whose team’s sole defeat Saturday was a narrow loss to Silver. “For giving away 12 points every time (by forfeiting at 152 and 182 pounds), we did well. That was some of the best competition we’ve seen.”

The Belen and Los Lunas varsities didn’t face each other at the Kirby tournament.

Belen, ranked third behind Piedra Vista and Los Lunas in this month’s News-Bulletin coaches poll, was in Pool A alongside Deming, Bernalillo, Española Valley and the Los Lunas junior varsity. Each squad featured at least a few tough competitors.

Deming offered the Eagles the most resistance in the pool. The Eagles prevailed over the fourth-ranked Wildcats, 45-35.

Belen 113-pounder Chris Romero got a late pin of Deming state champion Mikey Hernandez to provide the winning margin.

“Chris really earned his stripes with that one,” said Chaves of Romero, who recently became eligible for the first time this season. “That pin was the highlight of the tournament.”

Belen went 4-0 in Pool A, pitting them against Pool B’s only 4-0 team, Silver, the third-ranked team in Class 1A/3A. The Eagles cruised to a 51-28 win over the Colts, punctuated by a pin by Belen freshman Gunner Robinson to end the dual.

No one was cheering louder for Robinson than his brother, senior and two-time defending state champion Wyatt Robinson. Wyatt went 5-0 individually Saturday, as did the Eagles’ other two-time state champ, senior Phillip Gonzales, at 126 pounds.

Romero, Brandon Montiel (106 pounds), Matthew Lucero (132) and Danny Chavez (160) also went 5-0 at the tourney. Anthony Trujillo (120), Gunner Robinson (138) Gabe Aleman (152) and David Martinez (195) each went 4-1.

The Tigers would have made it to the championship dual, had they gotten past Silver, but the Colts edged LLHS, 40-36, placing Los Lunas second in Pool B. They beat the Belen junior varsity, which placed third in the pool, along with Grants and an “all-star team” from a variety of schools.

However, with 152-pounder Eddie Canizo out due to a dental procedure and 182-pounder Mark Hussey absent due to what Chavez called “personal issues,” it took work for the Tigers to compete with Silver.

Los Lunas registered a couple of impressive pins in the dual, which began at 126 pounds. In the 195-pound match, state champion Dakota Bencomo of Silver faced the Tigers’ 2010-11 state champ, Isaac Parra, in an intense match.

Bencomo got the better of the match, winning 11-4. There were several stoppages to discuss the score, and the wrestlers got in each other’s face twice after the whistle had blown.

At one point, Bencomo told the referee he had been bitten by Parra. The match was allowed to continue.

Los Lunas, after going 4-1 in Pool B, outlasted Deming, 46-30, in the tourney’s third-place dual.

Four Tigers, A.J. Sauceda (132 pounds), Ty TenBrink (145), Mikey Martinez (160) and Ricardo Alvarado (126) went undefeated at the tourney. Roman Cervantes (106), Michael Freeman (113), Miguel Alvarado (120), Gabe Alvarado (138), Isaac Parra (195) and Charles Truesdell (220) went 4-1.

Chaves said he looks forward to the Cardinal Classic, which features pools of wrestlers Friday and individual brackets on Saturday. St. Michael’s, the top-ranked 1A/3A team, along with Aztec and Capital, are among the solid teams set to attend.

“It’s not a lot of 4A guys, but it’s still tough,” said Chaves. “There are no easy matchups.”

St. Michaels comes to Belen for a 7 p.m. dual Wednesday. After that, Belen and Los Lunas are idle until the Feb. 16 District 6-4A Championships at BHS.


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