Rio Rancho’s Javier Camarena, top, had the better of Cleveland’s Benjamin Valencia in their 172-pound match Saturday, and Camarena went on to win the match. Both are headed to state this weekend. (Herron photo)
All roads to state wrestling championships still lead into Rio Rancho, but it’s been four years since a blue trophy stayed in the City of Vision.
What’s surprising is that last season, neither the Rams nor Storm brought home a trophy – and that’s rare.
Each school had one individual state champion, and each will be counted on to repeat: Roman Luttrell of Cleveland, a state champ at 106 last season and in a similar class (107) this weekend at the Rio Rancho Events Center, and the Rams’ Marcus Williams, a champ at 106 in 2021 and at 113 last year, and in 114 this year.
Rio Rancho won team championships under coach Dennis Friedland from 2003-05; from 2006-10 under coach Jason Nickal; and in 2011, ’14, ’15, ’18 and ’19 under coach Mike Santos.
Cleveland, which opened in 2009, claimed three titles under coach Corey Anderson in 2012, ’13 and ’16. Current coach Evan Copeland led the Storm to the crown in 2017.
In the seasons city teams weren’t the champs, here’s the trophies they brought home (red for second place, green for third):
2006 (Eldorado): Rams placed second.
2019 (Piedra Vista): Rams were third; Storm were fifth.
2021 (Farmington): Rams were second; Storm were fourth.
2022 (Farmington): No trophies; Rams were fourth, two points behind third-place Los Lunas; Storm were eighth.
Hopefully, city teams can keep a trophy or two in town when the New Mexico Army National Guard State Wrestling Championships take place Friday and Saturday at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
This season, there are no district tournaments to determine state qualifiers. Instead, the state was divided into two Class 5A regions, which held tournaments this past weekend, and the Rams and district champion Storm were in Region 1-5A with Capital, Cibola, Eldorado, Farmington, La Cueva, Manzano, Piedra Vista, Sandia, Santa Fe, Volcano Vista and West Mesa.
The Storm scored the most points in that competition, while the Rams tied for fourth with Farmington.
Region 2-5A is made up of Alamogordo, Albuquerque High, Atrisco Heritage Academy, Carlsbad, Centennial, Clovis, Gadsden, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Los Lunas, Mayfield, Organ Mountain, Rio Grande and Roswell.
The top seven finishers in each region’s division qualified for state, along with a wild card, to provide 16-wrestler brackets.
Here are the male qualifiers and where they placed at the regional, for each city team, by weight; there are 13 weight divisions this season, down from 14 in recent years:
107: Roman Luttrell, CHS (1); Josiah Neri, RRHS (3).
114: Joshua Ortega, CHS (2); Mohammad Farah, RRHS (wild card).
121: Matthew Mascarenas, CHS (4); Marcus Williams, RRHS (1)
127: Isaac Bachicha, CHS (4); Kaleb Medina, RRHS (2)
133: Matthew Dixon, CHS (4); Diego Archibeque, RRHS (7).
139: Xavier Lucero, CHS (7).
145: JP Montoya, CHS (1); Gabriel Miera, RRHS (5).
152: Joe Coon, CHS (2); Diego Francisco, RRHS (3).
160: Ruger Stewart, CHS (5); Aden Lorimer, RRHS (2).
172: Ben Valencia, CHS (5); Javier Camarena, RRHS (3).
189: Micah Martinez, CHS (4); Chris Montoya, RRHS (5).
215: Harris Mbueha, CHS (1); Christopher Garcia, RRHS (4).
Hwt: Robert Sabado, CHS (5); Michael Santos, RRHS (4).
In addition, nine female wrestlers from Rio Rancho qualified (girls’ regionals held the previous week):
100: Mikayla Randall-Varela, CHS; Elena Cordova, RRHS.
107: Alexis Saavedra, CHS.
114: Ashley Smith, CHS.
120: Tatum Dain, RRHS.126: Heaven Guevara, CHS.
132: Jianna Coon, CHS.
152: Kasyia Bush, RRHS.
185: Ava Gomez, RRHS.
Tickets are available online only at gofan.com.
You can see the list of state qualifiers at nmact.org; they were announced Sunday afternoon. The schedule of events for both days is also on the NMAA site.