PV won the District 1-4A wrestling tournament at Farmington High on Saturday afternoon and qualified all 14 on the roster for the state tournament, which will be held in Rio Rancho at the Santa Ana Star Center next Friday and Saturday. The Panthers recorded a team-score of 213.5, topping second-place Aztec, which scored 174. Bloomfield finished third with 137 team points, ahead of fourth-place Farmington (120) and fifth-place Kirtland (49).
The Panthers crowned six district champions, four runners-up and another four third-place finishers.
The top four placers in each weight class from the district tournament qualify for the state tournament.
"The guys really came through. The thing I am most proud of is that we didn't take any fourth places," said PV head coach Levi Stout. "We were one, two or three in every weight class. It says a lot about our overall team and how well we will do at the state tournament next week as a team."
PV's 126-pound Nick Pacheco won his fourth district title with a 4-2 decision win against Farmington's Brandon Padilla, who Pacheco called one of the top four guys in the state in their weight class.
"Padilla is a really tough kid. I expect him to do really well at state and I could picture myself wrestling him along with two other kids in the state finals next Saturday," Pacheco said.
Pacheco's win came after teammates Sam Sandoval (106), Anthony Juckes (112) and Ryan Ruybalid (120) all opened with decision wins to earn district titles.
"I don't know how many four-time district champs there have been from this area because it is such a tough area in wrestling, so that really means a lot for me to get that fourth one," Pacheco said. "Watching those first three guys go out there and win takes all the pressure away. Whenever you are sitting around before a tournament, you are thinking about getting bonus points and getting into certain rounds. When you are able to sit back and see your first three guys go through and win the tournament, you know the team is where they need to be and I know I can go out there and just do my thing. It helps a lot with momentum and wrestling is a lot about momentum, good and bad."
Sandoval opened the final round with a 4-2 decision of his own against Farmington's Cobey Hamblin. Sandoval, a freshman, was thrilled with his first district title and said he wouldn't be surprised if he faced Hamblin again next week deep in the tournament. He expects to be seeded No. 3 behind wrestlers from Deming and Santa Fe, and said he expects to see Hamblin seeded No. 4.
Juckes, a defending state champion, beat rival Troy Rightmire from Bloomfield in another nail-biting match. Rightmire came from behind and tied the match at 4 in the third round, but an escape point with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock gave Juckes a 5-4 decision.
Ruybalid, who placed third at state a year ago, found himself in a tough match with Farmington's Conner Rasmussen. Ruybalid had cruised most of the year to a 30-4 record, but the tough 5-1 match brought out the competitor in him.
"He is kind of a mellow guy and I was kind of glad to see that fire," Stout said of Ruybalid. "I think it got him going. We know that is one of the toughest weight classes at state this year, but I know Ruybalid can compete with all of those guys."
Also taking district titles for PV were 195-pound Christian Acosta, who won via third-round pin in a tough match against Farmington sophomore Cesar Haro, and senior Andrew Duran, who pinned Aztec's Kyle Henderson in the second round of their match.
"I think both Acosta and Duran can be state finalists," Stout said. "Acosta did some battling. He made mistakes and got down, but his character showed through and he came back. Duran is also getting better every single day and I am really excited about him."
Stout was also thrilled with performances by Wyatt Weaver (132) who fell via 15-0 technical fall to Farmington's Eduardo Trevizo in the finals; Justin Fleming, who finished third at 182 pounds; and Nick Varley, who finished in third place at 170 pounds.
"Those guys will all come through on the backside of the bracket for us next week just like they did at district," Stout said.
Aztec qualified all 13 wrestlers they had at the district tournament, with a hole at the 106-pound weight class.
The Tigers had four boys take district titles, including defending state champion Rio Escjojeda, who pinned PV's Dillon Strunk in the 138-pound final.
"I am feeling strong about another state title," Escojeda said. "I know there are a lot of tough kids at 138, and the guy at Capital is no slouch. Every takedown I threw at him he defended and I am kind of worried about him, but at the same time I am just going to go out there and do my best because that is all I can do. If I have to battle from the tougher side of the bracket, it will only be more rewarding."
Casey Ford won the 145-pound title for Aztec after defeating PV's Ryan Rino in a 1-0 decision, putting Ford atop what might have been the toughest division in the district, with Kirtland's Nataani Hatathlie coming in third.
Aztec's Mark Ritter won the 160-pound weight class with a 9-5 decision win against Bloomfield's Jacob Salazar in what was another extremely close match going into the final round.
Junior Adam Lucero, who placed third at state last year, followed up Ritter's win with a pin victory in the 170-pound weight class against Bloomfield's Jerome Abeyta.
"There is still a lot of work to do. It is fun to win district but state is what really matters," Lucero said. "Last year I won the district and took third in state, and I know there is no glory in winning this district title if you don't win state."
Bloomfield qualified 11 wrestlers for state, including district champions Mikey Loy (152), John Ellsaesser (182) and Orin Kennedy (285).
"The three champs did really well. They wrestled great matches and came out on top. I think they are all ready for state," said Bloomfield coach Adam Benavidez.
Loy won his match with a second-round pin against PV's Wyatt Hardy, but Loy said his focus is entirely on state.
"It is what I have been working toward all year. I can't wait," he said. "I am going to do whatever it takes this year to not be a runner-up. I am going to try my hardest to be perfect, and I will go off that mat passed out if I have to. I am going to push until there is nothing left to push."
Ellsaesser took a 4-2 decision win against Farmington's Xavier Lee. Both Ellsaesser and Lee look to be strong contenders to be finalists next Saturday.
Kennedy finished the district meet with a pin victory against Aztec's Marlin Norman in an explosive match.
Bloomfield qualifying 11 wrestlers this year gives the Bobcats one more than they carried to state a year ago.
"With all of the adversity we went through this year, we are doing pretty good," Benavidez said.
Trevizo was the only Scorpion crowned a district champ on Saturday, but with five second-place finishers the Scorps feel confident they are starting to hit their stride.
"We are trying to peak at the right time, and next week is when we want to peak," said Farmington assistant coach Jerome Boushee.
Trevizo said he is confident in his chances at state, despite being in what many coaches recognize as one of the stronger weight classes in the state.
"It feels good to win district but I have to keep working hard to get to next week," Trevizo said. "I am going to put myself through torture and hell this week in the mat room to try to get that state title."
Boushee said it is Trevizo's senior leadership in the mat room that will help prepare the other nine Scorps going to the state tournament for the big stage.
"Every day Trevizo gives 100 percent in the room. There hasn't been a day since August where he hasn't been in working. He lifts weights like a machine," Boushee said. "It is going to hurt to lose him, no question. Next Saturday is going to be a sad, sad day for us. I am hoping we are holding him up and crying at the same time next week. You just don't replace a Trevizo in the room."
Boushee was very pleased with performances from Hamblin, Rasmussen, Lee and Haro, and he hopes they all can place high at state.
"I think we can definitely place a bunch of kids," Boushee said. "Can we put ourselves on the podium as a team? It is hard with 10 kids. You have to put eight or nine in the finals if you want to do that."