Nine Taos wrestlers qualified for state

By Matthew Narvaiz
sports@taosnews.com
Posted 2/19/20

Nine Taos wrestlers have made it to the state tournament this Friday and Saturday (Feb. 21-22) at the Santa Ana Star Center in Río Rancho after solid individual performances at their prior meet.

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Nine Taos wrestlers qualified for state

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Nine Taos wrestlers have made it to the state tournament this Friday and Saturday (Feb. 21-22) at the Santa Ana Star Center in Río Rancho after solid individual performances at their prior meet.

On Saturday (Feb. 15) the Tigers participated in the District 2-4A individual meet, and seven wrestlers qualified in the process.

Head coach Robert Valencia was proud of all who qualified, and is prepping his team for their biggest event of the year.

"Any of these guys from Armando Valerio to AnnaLiz Duran to Cameron Gonzales all have the ability to medal," Valencia said.

The day prior, Duran, a senior, qualified for state too when she competed in the girls district event at Atrisco Heritage in Albuquerque, as she placed second.

While second place is good, Duran noted that her loss to Atrisco's Santii Santiago was her first to another girl this season -- and that's given way to some determination.

"Losing didn't hurt my confidence," Duran said. "In fact, it gave me confidence to push a little bit harder."

Duran looks up to her sister, Elisha, who had gotten her into the sport. She said that winning the state championship in her weight class would be dedicated to her. And to make it even more special, this is the first year that the state event for girls is official.

"It keeps me up at night," Duran said of the expectations laid upon her. "In the end, this is going to determine what a lot of people think."

On Monday (Feb. 17), during the Tigers' practice, Jerome Martinez was admitted to the state tournament after one of the district wrestlers dropped out due to injury.

The top three wrestlers in each weight class move on to the state tournament - and Martinez had placed fourth. Now, as just an eighth-grader, he will get a taste of the fierce competition awaiting him in Río Rancho.

Freshman Mante Chacon, in fact, had a not-so-good individual performance on Saturday (Feb. 15) in Española as he placed fourth in the 113-pound weight class. However, each class - in this case 4A - has a wild card that they can use to send a wrestler to state at each weight class. Chacon was chosen as he posted a solid season record of .500 throughout the season.

"He didn't have a good showing at districts," Valencia said. "But he is still deserving of making it to state."

Seniors Armando Valerio and Cameron Gonzales, who've helped lead the team this year alongside Duran, also qualified for state.

Gonzales, who wrestles at 132 pounds, finished second at districts. Valerio, a 152 pounder, finished in first place.

However, Valerio has had some lingering losses from earlier in the season -- to wrestlers from Belen, Miyamura and even Aztec. And Valerio has a word for if he sees any of those wrestlers in state this weekend.

"Revenge," Valerio said.

"Dedication, practice every day and listen to what coach tells me to do," Valerio said of how he is preparing for state. "And just have the heart to do it, man."

Valencia said that he believes Valerio is capable of winning in his weight class, as long as he shows up with determination.

"Armando Valerio is not a quitter," Valencia said. "He'll battle until the end. He'll give us six minutes. I know that other opponents won't."

With the state tournament so close, the Taos wrestlers have been putting in the hard work.

Duran said, more than anything, it has been a team effort that has gotten them to this point.

"We're always pushing each other," Duran said.

But what time is it, especially for the seniors?

"It's now or never," Duran said.

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