Tiger Duals a tough test

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The Tom Torres Tiger Duals wrestling meet hosted a virtual who’s-who of elite wrestling programs in the state this past Saturday.

Joining host Los Lunas on the mats at Los Lunas High School were defending Class 5A champions Rio Rancho Cleveland as well as county rivals Belen, and 5A stalwarts Albuquerque Eldorado, Carlsbad and Albuquerque Volcano Vista.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN’s NATHANIEL MArtinez, right, shakes hands with his opponent from Carlsbad after winning his match by fall during the Tom Torres Tiger Duals Saturday at Los Lunas HIgh School.

In the championship round, the host Tigers finished fourth behind a trio of 5A state contenders as Eldorado defeated Los Lunas 45-34 to claim third place.

Cleveland topped Volcano Vista, coached by former Los Lunas wrestler Ahren Garcia, 39-3 in the first place match.

With a host of younger grapplers in its stable, Belen came in fourth in their five-team pool with a record of 1-3.

“It was probably the best tournament of the weekend in terms of who was here,” said Los Lunas coach Steve Chavez. “It was just unbelievable. Top teams, tough competition. You can’t ask for more.”

Los Lunas entered their final match-up in Pool A with a 3-0 mark after handily defeating Las Cruces Onate, Santa Fe Capital and Las Cruces Centennial by a combined score of 167-51 before facing Volcano Vista in the final pool match.

Against the Hawks, Los Lunas’ squad showed plenty of pluck, but were ultimately beat by the Hawks 49-21 to come in second in the pool with a 3-1 record behind VVHS’ unblmeished 4-0 mark.

Against Eldorado in the third place match, Los Lunas started well with a wins by pin fall from sophomore Roman Cervantes, and seniors Miguel Alvarado, Tristan Rasp and Ty Tenbrink as well as a 14-4 decision by Michael Freeman in the 113 division.

But the Eagles registered three pin falls of their own and a decision in the final match to claim the win.

“I was happy with the fourth place finish,” Chavez said. “Battling Volcano Vista and the other 4A schools was great. The kids competed well and won some tough matches. For this being the first tournament of the year, the kids really over-achieved.”

Chavez had particular praise for Cervantes and Rasp, who both went undefeated in the tournament.

“Those guys looked tough,” Chavez said. “Michael Freeman did an outstanding job. A.J., Miguel Alvarado stepped it up. But all our guys stepped up in one way or another. We’re ready to go. We’re going to get better every week.”

The Tigers opened the season on Wednesday, Dec. 10, with a head-to-head dual at Atrisco Heritage Academy. Los Lunas fell to the host Jaguars 40-27. AHA finished fourth in the Class 5A State Wrestling meet last season.

LLHS next travels to Capital for the Jaguar Invitational in Santa Fe on Saturday.

The Eagles felt the effect of the weather cancellations the week before the Tiger Duals, fielding a greener team than they wanted as a result.

Belen coach Lee Chaves said his team was unable to get its certifications done last Thursday because of school cancellations.

As a result, the team the Eagles fielded in Los Lunas Saturday was very young and inexperienced and forfeited in three weight classes.

“We knew we weren’t going to do well because of the forfeits, but we were able to get mat time for a lot of younger guys.” Chaves said, I’m happy with what we got from the kids.”

Chaves said three of his 10 wrestlers made their varsity debut Saturday.

Placed in Pool B with 5A powerhouses Cleveland, Carlsbad and Eldorado, the Eagles finished fourth in the five-team pool with a 1-3 record. Belen defeated Mayfield 42-24 for its lone team win Saturday.

Chaves had high praise for freshmen Brandon Carejo and Estevan Chavez, who went 2-2 and impressed observers by pinning his Cleveland counterpart.

Nathaniel Martinez (170) was another grappler who Chaves praised, finishing 3-1 on the day. Chaves gave kudos to heavyweight Daniel Gordon as well.

Belen next wrestles in the Las Cruces Invitational at Las Cruces High School Friday and Saturday.

Chavez and the other gathered coaches honored former Los Lunas wrestling coach Tom Torres, who recently retired from coaching, before the matches began.

Chavez said adding Torres’ name to the Tiger Duals tournament was an easy decision.

“We did something or him. He did his 30 years. It’s was a just an honor for him for what he’s done for the program,” he said. “It’s just about what we all have done for the program.”

Torres’ name will remain associated with future Tiger Duals as well, Chavez said.

The Jaguars returned to first-year coach Lorenzo Carrillo’s old stomping grounds on Albuquerque’s Westside and gave their new coach his first dual meet win with a 42-33 victory over the Sartans on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

The Jaguars followed that up with a fifth place finish at the APS Mini Invitational meet at Rio Grande High School on Saturday.

Against St. Pius, Valencia won largely on the strength of six victories by fall.

Six Valencia wrestlers won their bouts by pin — sophomore Joey Sanchez (106), juniors Jacob Pino (120), Randall Gomez (138), Nate Nash (160) and Urbano Gonzalez (170), as well as senior Marco Gonzalez (152).

“Pius came out tough,” Carrillo said. “I was surprised how skilled they were. But we have a more seasoned group. We gave up a few forfeits but we were able to win man for man.”

Carrillo said while the entire squad performed well against St. Pius, Sanchez and Urbano Gonzalez’ wins were among the best in the meet.

“They both had some pretty tough opponents,” he said, “so I was pleased.”

On Saturday, the Jaguars finished fifth out of nine teams at the APS Mini Invite – all of them Class 5A schools from Albuquerque – with a score of 92.

Host Rio Grande, the reigning 5A champions, won overwhelmingly, easily outdistancing runners-up Atrisco Heritage Academy 212-144. Cibola finished third with a score of 106.5. Fourth place La Cueva edged Valencia with a score of 94.

Due to injury, the Jags were forced to forfeit four of the 14 weight classes in the meet. But Sanchez again performed well for Valencia, winning the 106 weight class.

Three Valencia wrestlers finished in second place in their divisions – Joseph Barela (126), Marco Gonzalez, and Urbano Gonzalez. Another three – Pino, Nash and Manuel Rascon (132) – had third place finishes.

“Jacob lost in the semis but had a good comeback,” Carrillo said. “Joe Barela forfeited the championship match due to an injured shoulder, and Nash has a bum shoulder and lost a tough match.

“With only ten on the mat, we did pretty well. The overall standings don’t reflect how well we did. I’m very happy with the results.”

The Jaguars travel Saturday to the Las Cruces Invitational, a tournament Carrillo said “is always tough.” VHS will come in short handed due to the rash of shoulder injuries suffered in the first week of the season.

“We need to get some kids healed up,” Carrillo said. “We have one more tournament at La Cueva than we have the holidays. But we can’t afford too many injuries because we have such a small group.

“But I’m happy with what I’m seeing. Several coaches have said we’re looking good this far into the season.”