For the second time this academic year, Estevan Valerio is state champion, first with the 2018 Tigers football team and now as the best 182-pound class 4A wrestler …
For the second time this academic year, Estevan Valerio is state champion, first with the 2018 Tigers football team and now as the best 182-pound class 4A wrestler in the state of New Mexico.
Almost every seat in the Santa Ana Star Center was filled during the preliminaries and final rounds of the state wrestling tournament, Feb. 22-23. Two-inch mats covered the floor of the arena, creating a 4-by-2 grid of wrestling matches. The music, ranging from Journey to Nirvana to Pearl Jam, couldn't be heard above the crowd, except as a basslike rumble like a neighbor's stereo up too loud.
During the preliminary events, every one of the eight mats hosts a contest. Taos brought 14 wrestlers, one in each of the 14 weight classes, so the coaches were busy, sometimes even with more than one wrestler competing simultaneously.
The bouts at state are often so close as to be decided by a point or two. Seven Taos wrestlers advanced to the second day of the competition, all of them seniors. All seven finished in the top six in their respective weight classes, earning themselves medals and their team points.
The redistricting brought new teams to the class 4A competition. Among them was Aztec, who dominated the competition, taking the blue trophy with 225 points. There was fierce competition among the next three teams. Defending 4A state champions, Silver, finished second with 183 team points. When the dust settled, third place went to Los Lunas with 171 points. Taos finished fourth, with 140 points.
Individual competition highlights
State champion -Taos Tiger Estevan Valerio finished the weekend as a two-time state wrestling champion after winning the top spot in the 182-pound class 4A division, winning every bout at state by fall.
Second place - Dominic Lopez took second in the 285-pound division, winning his first three matches, only one of which went into a second period, by fall.
Third place - Christopher Valencia at 126 pounds and Tyler Valencia at 138 pounds both won third place medals.
Fourth place - Thomas Clarkson won fourth place after a close 4-3 fight for third.
Sixth place - Two Taos wrestlers, Clayton Demas (195-pound) and Jesse Alaya (220-pound), were injured in the consolation semifinals and unable to compete in their final matches. Even still, both finished sixth in the state.
The details, by weight class
Eighth-grader Mante Chacon, wrestling at 106 pounds, lost his first bout to Adan Benavidez of Bloomfield but then won his next two matches. He beat Jared Platero of Kirtland Central by 5-2 decision and Dominic Romero of Belen by SV-1 8-5. He lost to Rhys Seller of Miyamura High School by fall at 3:26.
Thomas Clarkson (113-pound) beat Isaiah Maestas of Los Alamos by fall 3:12 into the match. His second victory was over Seanmattew Garcia of Miyamura by 10-4 decision. He lost to Steven Sanchez of St. Pius by fall at 0:56, putting him in the bout for a shot at third with Gavyn Fredrickson of Los Lunas. He beat Fredrickson by 7-1 decision, putting him against Joseph Baca of Gallup for third. It was a close, high-energy match. Both wrestlers were able to maneuver out of the attacks of the other, most of the time. After 1 minute, 2 minutes, and 2 minutes again, the score was 4-3 for Baca. Clarkson won fourth place.
Christopher Valencia (126-pound) started the tournament with two wins, one by fall at 4:51 over Jonathan Dominguez of Chaparral and his second over the 38-4 Andres Lopez of Moriarty by fall 1:48 into the bout. Valencia lost a close match to Damian Gonzales of Los Alamos by 5-4 decision, then beat Santi Tafoya of Belen by fall at 1:00.
The third-place match with Ayden Reinhardt of Bloomfield was tight. Going into the third period, Valencia had a slight (2-0) lead. He then got a key reversal, giving him a 4-0 lead. He won the match and the third-place medal by 4-1 decision.
Joseph Chacon (132 pounds) wrestled three bouts at state. He lost by fall at 1:04 to Zeke Marquez of Silver, who had a 34-3 record going into the tournament and went on to win the top spot. Chacon then beat Cesar Herrera of Highlands by fall in 2:51 and lost a 6-4 match to Dylan Fredrickson of Los Lunas.
Tyler Valencia (138-pounds) lost only once, to Cody Candelaria of Aztec, who went on to win the title. His won all five of his other bouts by fall.
Tyler Valencia's road to a third-place medal in the 138-pound division started with two matches that an onlooker might have missed by blinking - a win by fall in 36 seconds over Nicolas Ajo of Santa Teresa and one over Manuel Estrada of Valencia in 25 seconds.
He lost 23-11 to Cody Candelaria of Aztec, who went on to win the gold, by major decision. Candelaria was an aggressive take-down artist, putting up his 23 point mostly 2 at a time. It was 4-8 Candelaria after two minutes. Tyler Valencia adjusted, himself becoming more aggressive and moving faster. It was enough for an intense bout, but not for the win.
Valencia won his next match against Coleton Gonzalez of Belen by fall in 2:11, advancing him to the contest for third place. Tyler Valencia beat Andrew Lopez of Valley by fall at 1:34 and himself a third-place medal, his fourth individual state medal in his time in high school.
Jason Montoya (145-pound) took the mat twice at the state competition, losing each by fall at 1:15.
Cameron Gonzales (152-pound) wrestled two rounds, losing his first by technical fall and his second my major decision.
Roman Quintana (160-pound) lost by fall to Joseph Naelf of Grants at 2:28, who went on to win third place, and then to Dominic Baca, the fifth-place winner from Los Lunas, at 1:48.
Justin Good (170-pound) lost his first to Malcom Altisi of Aztec by fall at 3:41, but beat Vincent Figueroa of Miyamura by fall in 35 seconds. His final match was a loss to Gerald Wiza of Bloomfield by fall in 59 seconds.
Estevan Valerio (182-pound) opened the state tournament with his 25th consecutive win of the season over Thomas Highstrete of Academy by fall in 1:02. He then beat Asaiah Kamplain of Moriarty by fall in 38 seconds.
This put Valerio against Dylan Irish of Los Alamos for the third time in as many weeks. Valerio was ahead 9-4 after two 2 minutes, and it wasn't long before the near-falls became a 13-4 major decision victory.
To complete his 28-0 undefeated season, Valerio beat Cody Gardner of Valencia by fall at 3:24.
Clayton Demas (195-pound) started the tournament by beating Clark Hager of Academy by fall in 59 seconds. He then defeated Devon Wilson of Grants, again by fall, in 1:21. He narrowly lost an 8-7 decision to Santiago Salas of Los Lunas in the absolute last second of the match and lost by fall to Ian Thomas of Kirtland Central. The final bout pushed an injury too far and Demas found himself on the medic's table, unable to compete in his final bout for fifth place. After talking up their match-up all day with Devon Wilson of Grants, Demas appeared on the mat and gave Wilson the match with a handshake, taking sixth place for himself.
Jesse Alaya (220-pound) won his first to bouts by fall, first one over Cudia Tihe of Shiprock in 4:19 and the second over Toa Sanchez of Grants in 3:52.
He and Coleton Radford of Del Norte were tied 0-0 after 2 minutes, and 1-1 after three periods, sending them to first a one-minute overtime, then a 30-second overtime, and another 30. Alaya lost the triple-overtime tie-breaker 4-1. Alaya lost to Zachary Doyle of Los Lunas by fall at 1:53, sending him to the match for fifth place. Sometime near the end of the match with Doyle, Alaya injured his ankle badly enough that he was unable to weight it and was advised by the medics that he was done competing for the day. Alaya, assisted by coach Valencia, chose to appear on the mat and shake hand with Milo Trujillo of Moriarty, who finished with the fifth spot. Trujillo late helped the injured Alaya take his own place on the podium to receive his sixth-place medal.
(285-pound) qualified for the final round by winning his first three bouts, all by fall. First his beat Nick Duarte of Bloomfield in 1:05, then Joshua Hannah of Aztec in 2:36, followed by Milo Light of Los Alamos in 1:18. These three victories put Lopez in the final round, competing for the state championship against Angelo Maestas of Valley. A minute fifteen into the bout, it was over. After a valiant effort by Lopez, who found himself in a bad spot but couldn't get out of it, Maestas took the title. Lopez finished the tournament second.
All seven of Taos' medalists graduate this year, leaving head coach Robert Valencia with a job he knows well: training the next crop of Taos Tiger wrestlers.
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