There haven’t been many five-time state wrestling champions.
In fact, of the seven New Mexico student-athletes who have won a quintet of titles, only one was from Rio Rancho: Max Ortega, who was a five-time state mat champ from 2005-09. His older brother Matt “only” won four such crowns. (Interestingly, five more New Mexicans became five-time state champs after Ortega became only the second with that distinction.)
But incoming Cleveland High freshman Vincent Roman Luttrell, who won the 106-pound title in February at the state meet – the Storm’s lone state champ – might be on the path to five.
He goes by Roman locally, but he can be seen online as Vincent Luttrell.
Whatever they call him, he may have taken a step to another title next February, after finishing sixth in Greco-Roman at the Fargo nationals earlier this month. That followed his 2-2 record in 16U Freestyle, and wasn’t happy with that – his determined effort took him to sixth in Greco-Roman.
“Being a Fargo All-American in the wrestling world is pretty prestigious,” said Cleveland High wrestling coach Evan Copeland, seemingly always thinking about wrestling if he’s not thinking about his young family.
“Paul Mascarenas did,” Copeland noted, touting the Storm’s first state champ and only denied five because Cleveland High did not exist when he was an eighth-grader, but he won four in a row from 2010-13, later joined by brothers Mikey, a three-time state champ (2015-17), and Tristan, also a three-time state champ (2018-20), giving the family 10.
“I think wrestling is a family sport for sure,” Copeland said, hence his interest in Luttrell’s future.
Older brother Jack was a three-time state placer (2016-19) and the boys’ father, Chris, won three titles while wrestling for Manzano High (1980-82).
“(Roman) is on a good path; we’ve got to take it one year at a time,” Copeland cautioned. “He loves wrestling. He embraces the wrestling lifestyle. He had a really good summer. Fargo is arguably the toughest tournament in the country — this year, with 6,000 entries and 27 mats at the Fargodome.”
Two other CHS wrestlers were in Fargo, as Ashley Smith and Joe Coon headed north, accompanied by former 2011 state champ Mac Borrego.
Ashley Smith and Joe Coon, Copeland said, have “dedicated the past few months to training and preparing for this challenging event. We are so proud of their effort and how they represented Cleveland Storm wrestling and New Mexico wrestling.”
Smith was 2-2 in the 16U Freestyle, defeating wrestlers from Wisconsin and Missouri before falling to an All-American from California, who wound up eighth. She bumped up in age and weight to wrestle in the Junior Freestyle division, and Copeland said, “While she didn’t come away with any victories, she gained valuable experience … (and) is going to use all of the knowledge she gained this past summer to have an amazing sophomore season.”
As a freshman, she went 28-8 and placed fourth.
Coon (32-10), who was fifth at state, earned a victory in Junior Greco over a Nebraska wrestler, but didn’t win again.
“Joe’s hard work and dedication toward the sport of wrestling is unmatched and he has shown tremendous growth over the summer,” Copeland noted. “We expect Joe to slide into a leadership role this season and have a dominated junior year on the mat.”
And more about that family remark: Joe’s brother, Josh, and sister XXX are also Storm wrestlers.
Behind the scenes
In 13 seasons of wrestling competition, the Storm have taken home seven trophies, with first-place blue hardware in 2012, ’13, ’16 and ’17. And since a red runner-up trophy in 2019, nothing the past three seasons.
One thing’s for sure, the Storm aren’t being out-worked.
“We’ve been pretty busy — we always have a busy summer,” Copeland said. “It’s sort of our second season, to provide opportunities for our wrestlers, help them get better at wrestling, keep ’em busy.
Combined, his wrestlers visited five states and traveled more than 5,500 miles.
But this was really no vacation for the CHS wrestling program, because there was a lot of hard work and sweat equity involved along the way.
All told, there were more than 50 practices/training sessions/lifts; three top Arizona wrestling teams visited CHS; there were five camps/clinics and two summer dual matches.
“We are grateful to our wrestlers and their families for the dedication to wrestling. There is no easy way to success in wrestling and it certainly does not come over night,” Copeland said, the Storm’s varsity coach since 2016. “It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to reach goals in wrestling. We had a large number of wrestlers invest their time, energy and effort in reaching their wrestling goals this spring and summer. We look forward to seeing their hard work pay off this upcoming season.
“I’m not gonna say we’re working the hardest,” he said, but – being the numbers guy he is – check this out: There have been 15 various camps, clinics and competitions; practices average 30 wrestlers per session, with 21 spring sessions, 21 in the summer and 42 tabbed as off-season.
“We take attendance, more for coaches to know who’s putting in the work,” he said. “I think anytime you don’t reach your goals, you try to put more work in. We haven’t reached our goal for probably three seasons.”
Rather than looking into the rear-view mirror, and the lack of hardware to put in the school’s trophy case, Copeland said, “We focus on ourselves, what we can do.”
That “we” includes a trio of former successful Storm matmen – Borrego, Angel Castillo Jr. and Clayton Pankey.
Next up? Some time to relax, and once school starts, “We have wrestling class, work on team-building stuff,” Copeland said. “Practice will start after Labor Day.”
As coaches like to point out, it takes a village of sorts.
“We appreciate all our supporters,” Copeland said. “It’s a great community, with support from family and the administration. We’re making better people through wrestling.”