It’s been a long time since a city wrestling team didn’t bring home a trophy from the state tournament; Rio Rancho began winning state championships in 2003, and except for Eldorado beating the Rams in 2006, won titles every season through 2011. Cleveland then won in 2012 and ’13, with the Rams winning the next two seasons; Cleveland won twice again, as did the Rams, taking us up to 2020.
Apparently, that’s when the Four Corners took over: Piedra Vista won in 2020 and Farmington won the next two years. The City of Vision didn’t go home trophy-less in 2020 and ’21, as the Rams were third in ’20 and second in ’21.
Last Saturday was different: The Storm, despite qualifiers in all 14 weight divisions, had to be contest with a fourth-place finish – only the top-three teams take home hardware – and the Rams were eighth. The city’s girls teams were back in the pack, with the Storm placing 12th and the Rams right behind them in 13th.
Also different: Instead of the city having multiple individual state champions, each boys team had but one, and, literally, Cleveland’s champ doesn’t even attend the school. Eighth-grader Roman Luttrell won at 106 pounds for the Storm, while the Rams’ Marcus Williams, who won the title at 106 last year, won at 113 this time around. It’s the fourth year in a row the Rams have had just one state champ, after having at least two since 2013; the Storm had two or more from 2011-2017 and 2019-21.
Division by division, here’s how the 5A tournament went:
106: Only an eighth-grader, CHS’s Roman Luttrell (35-4) made the most of his state debut, as the No. 2 seed pinned his first two opponents, won a 7-4 decision in the semifinals and then posted an 8-7 decision over No. 1 seed Marcus Najera of Carlsbad.
The Rams’ Isaiah Simmons (18-18) lost his first match, won his second match in a second-period fall, and then was eliminated by fourth-pace finisher Erik Bencomo of Deming.
113: Rio Rancho sophomore and last year’s 106-pound champ, Marcus Williams (34-7), was the No. 1 seed and posted a first-period fall, and then three third-period pins, the final coming in 5:15 at the expense of Volcano Vista’s second-seeded Jonathan Garcia.
Cleveland’s Zerrik Harrington (23-13) lost in the semifinals and finished sixth.
120: Unseeded Roberto Cordova (28-10) of Rio Rancho opened with a 16-0 technical fall over Cleveland’s Joshua Ortega (16-13), and made it into the finals after a pair of decisions, one at the expense of second-seeded Anthony Lopez of Volcano Vista. Fourth-seeded Roman Ulibarri defeated Cordova, 7-4, in the championship match. Ortega won his second match, then was ousted in the next round.
126: No. 2 seed Andres Jiron (30-7) rolled into the finals with three falls, then was edged 8-7 in the championship match by Unbeaten No. 1 seed Avery Atma of Las Cruces. The Storm’s Isaac Bachicha (26-11) won his first match before becoming a third-round victim of Atma, then lost his next match.
132: The Storm’s John Montoya (22-13) won his first two matches, then lost, 9-5, to No. 1 seed and eventual champ, Joshua Robinson of Sandia. Montoya finished sixth.
The Rams did not have a qualifier at 132.
138: Unseeded Gabriel Valles (22-14) of Rio Rancho lost his first match, then bounced back with two wins, including a pin in 2:42 of Cleveland’s Kyle Davy (20-11). Valles was then pinned in his next match.
145: The Storm’s Joe Coon (32-10) won his opening match, then dropped into the consolation bracket, where he finished fifth after a pin of Farmington’s Daxton Allison.
The Rams did not have a qualifier at 145.
152: Fourth-seeded Julian Rojas (20-8) won by two falls, then suffered that fate in a second-period at the hands of No. 1 seed Jayden Luttrell of La Cueva, won went on to win the championship. Rojas finished fifth when his opponent defaulted due to injury.
The Rams did not have a qualifier at 152.
160: Third-seeded Damien Bachicha (32-4) of Cleveland won two of his first three matches by fall and needed an overtime decision in the match between his pins; La Cueva freshman Mason Posa then defeated him 7-0 in the championship match.
The Rams did not have a qualifier at 160.
170: Third-seeded Josh Coon (39-3) of Cleveland won by fall and a major decision before losing in the semifinals, taking a win by decision into the third-place match, where he pinned fourth-seeded Tomas Herrera of Gadsden in 2:21.
Rio Rancho’s Gage Victor (16-14) was a 13-5 major-decision victim of Coon in the second round, won his next match by fall and then was pinned in his second match in the consolation bracket,
182: The Storm’s Harris Momeh (17-6) won his first match, then lost in the second round, before rebounding with a win in the consolation bracket; he then lost an 8-4 decision to eventual fourth-place finisher Rene Pages of Hobbs.
The Rams’ Javier Camarena (12-15) won his first match before No. 1 seed and eventual champ Elijah Martinez pinned him in 43 seconds. Camarena then lost his next match, also in a first-period fall.
195: Two state champs from 2021 met in this final: the Storm’s Kymani Castillo (33-4), out to defend his 195 crown after a fourth-place finish at 182 in 2020, and Carlsbad’s Jake Fuentes (15-0), a state champ at 182 last year when he was also unbeaten.
Fuentes, the 2 seed, rolled into the finals after an 11-second fall, a 52-second fall and a technical fall; Castillo, the 1 seed, by two second-period falls and a third-period fall.
Fuentes scored first on a takedown, and a Castillo escape made it 2-1, which is how the first period ended. With Fuentes on top to start the second period, Castillo tied the match with an escape, then was taken down to trail 4-2, the escaped to make it 4-3 as then headed into the final period.
With Castillo on top, Fuentes escaped to make it 6-3; Castillo escaped to make it 6-4, but Fuentes executed another takedown for 8-4 and took control over the time that remained.
220: Each team had an unseeded matman, with the Rams’ Gage Dain (19-10) recording a pair of falls before losing in the semifinals to eventual champ Dezi Johnson of Volcano Vista, and after a pin in the consolation bracket, he lost in the third-place match to third-seeded Victor Borunda of Farmington, 3-2.
The Storm’s Nathaniel Perry (11-5) lost his first match, won his next two (by fall and decision), and then was eliminated one match before he would have met Dain for the right to wrestle for third place.
285: Underclassmen were the theme: Storm freshman Gabe Marquez (15-11) lost, won and then lost; Rams sophomore Michael Santos (20-10), the coach’s son, won, lost, won and then lost.
How about the girls?
Each of the girls’ brackets had just eight competitors; the city teams fielded a total of four — and each finished in the top four.
100: The Rams’ Elena Cordova (31-6) was the 4 seed and finished third.
114: The Storm’s Ashley Smith (28-8) was seeded third and finished fourth.
126: Eighth-grader Heaven Handy (28-6) of Cleveland was seeded third and finished runner-up to Aztec’s Makayla Muñoz (35-1).
185: Rio Rancho’s Marisa Cerrillo (10-4) was the 4 seed and finished fourth.