Lineups are starting to round into form, and coaches now know what their teams will look like going forward in the 2012-13 season.
For Piedra Vista head coach Levi Stout, that means finding the right athletes to fill the right spots in an effort to win a third consecutive 4A state title.
“I have a couple of potential state placers on my junior varsity right now. The JV guys showed that last week when they lost to Bloomfield's varsity by only four points,” Stout said. “We are having great practices, and I don't think we have missed a beat with leadership. We miss Nick Pacheco, but I really thought there would be something missing this year without him. Instead, Sam Sandoval, Jacob Palmgren, Ryan Ruybalid and Wyatt Weaver have stepped right up and filled that role.”
PV has dominated the lower weight divisions the past two seasons. That won't change this year.
Returning two-time state champion Anthony Juckes makes a jump up three weight classes this year to 132 pounds while Ruybalid will have his eyes set on a 126-pound state title his senior season.
“It will be interesting to watch all year to see how Juckes competes with the bigger guys. When you jump up three weight classes, it is no joke. You better pack your lunch with you because you aren't wrestling little kids anymore,” Stout said.
“Ruybalid is going to have a good weight class with Brandon Padilla from Farmington. Last year, Padilla gave Pacheco a good match and I hear he looked great last week in Gallup. We won't see him until district, though.”
As a freshman last year, Sandoval showed the early signs of greatness. With a few more pounds on his frame, Sandoval will be a force at 103.
“He is going to be a hammer this year. He is finally one of the bigger kids in his weight class,” Stout said. “He was 88 pounds as an eighth-grader and small for 103 last year. Now he walks around at 110, and he looked lights out at Rio Rancho. We expect it from him all year.”
The Panthers also have a transfer, Palmgren, from Del Norte, Colo., this season filling the 120-pound roster spot.
The talented junior won a 1A state title last year in Colorado, and aims to win a 4A title in New Mexico this year with PV.
“He came in early this summer and went to camp with us. He fits right into our program,” Stout said. “He is from a small Colorado school. We are old school here. We like to do it the hard way, and Palmgren is a grinder. I expect him to be in the state finals this year.”
In the middle-weight classes, Stout is happy with the work from Wyatt Hardy and Ryan Rino, guys Stout expects big things from this season before they become senior captains for the 2013-14 season.
Weaver is also in the mix as just a sophomore.
PV had another student transfer into its area with state tournament experience. John Ellsaesser joins the team at 182 pounds after wrestling for Bloomfield in previous seasons.
The home-schooled student is a welcome addition for Stout and the Panthers.
“We had a couple of holes last year, if you want to call them that,” Stout said. “Ellsaesser moved into our zone and didn't have to sit out any at all, and he has filled in at 182, making us that much stronger. He brings good experience and he is going to be very good.”
Senior Christian Acosta also brings leadership to the heavier weight classes.
Acosta had an inspiring finish to the 2011-12 season when he battled to place at state to help the team win the team title despite having a badly cut up face.
“He showed everyone how to wrestled for the team last year. A lot of kids looked up to that,” Stout said. “It is crazy being in our room with all the leaders and experience our guys have. You can go in our room and wrestle with a two-time state champ, too. There are a lot of teams lucky to have a state placer to roll with. Having the presence and experience these guys have is definitely helping.”
PV will take big trips to Garden City, Kan., and Springerville, Ariz., this season where Stout is excited for his wrestlers to face nationally ranked competition.
“I want to get all of our kids a loss or two before they go to state. They are going to see some nationally ranked kids, and I want them to have that experience before state,” Stout said. “None of our guys will go unbeaten into state.”
Getting past District 1-4A is the first priority before winning state, Stout said.
“I am impressed by what Kirtland is doing, and the legend is back in Aztec. I am excited to compete against Herb Stinson over there in Aztec,” Stout said. “You can never count FHS out, either. Coach (Cecil) Linnens always finishes strong with his guys.”
Head coach: Cecil Linnens, 5th season
Key Returners: Cobey Hamblin, Conner Rasmussen, Brandon Padilla, Irving Lopez, Vinny Manning and Cesar Haro.
New Additions: Tierney Staley and Essiel Carrasco
Season Outlook: “We only return one state placer, and that is Padilla. We are excited about having Hamblin and Haro back as well. We are waiting on Rasmussen, but Manning is back for us and having Staley back is big. Staley was sixth as a freshman and had an ACL injury last year. Having Carrasco back healthy is another great one for us. Of course PV is going to be tough, returning 10 of 14 guys. It is going to be a tough district and, now that we can only take the top three kids in each weight, we are going to leave home state placers. The older kids need to keep performing and find a way to dig out wins in February. Half of our varsity team has less than a year of experience, so our focus is to keep improving and not let guys get down on themselves for early season losses. What we want to find is a way to be consistent.” — Jay Boushee, Farmington assistant coach.
Head Coach: Monte Maxwell, 7th season
Key Returners: Vincent Molina, Robert Escojeda, Jesse Mitchell, Isaiah Valdez, Justis Francisco and Adam Lucero
New Additions: Delvin Begaye and Monty Gomez
Season Outlook: “Right now, our lineup is changing week to week. We won't know exactly what we have until later next week. The football guys just got in this week so we are getting those things put in order and kids in place while they get to their weight. The guys are working hard and the attitude has been great. Of course, PV is the team to beat right now. They won it the last two years and they are on top. I think the whole district is going to be tough because Kirtland Central is tougher and Farmington looked tough last weekend. There are no cake walks in this district. Coach (Herb) Stinson is back coaching with us thi syear. He brings 22 years of experience on top of what I have. His experience and knowledge and success he brings with him would help any program, and he is definitely an asset. We have some guys we expect to be on top of the podium at state. We will see how it finishes in February. To get there, we have to be healthy and at the right weight.” — Maxwell.
Head Coach: John Sandoval, 3rd season
Key Returners: Keishaun Aspaas and David White
New Additions: Aiden Cockrell, Sam Chee and Aaron Frank
Season Outlook: “Once we get everybody where we want them, we will be pretty solid. We have two returning state placers (Aspaas and White) back on the roster and five or six seniors with a lot of experience this year. It is going to be our best year since I have been here. It is exciting. Our numbers are up and we have consistently had about 40 kids in our room every day. The kids are excited to wrestle, and we are seeing a lot more commitment and dedication. Sam Chee has been a leader for us by setting the example, and I know we have some tough kids. Cockrell and Aspaas are the two hardest workers in the room beside Chee. PV is going to be tough to beat and they got two great transfers. Their lineup top-to-bottom is rock solid. But I think it will be a dog fight for second. Farmington is always tough and Aztec is going to be solid again.” — Sandoval.
Head Coach: Greg Shoemaker, 1st season
Key Returners: Troy Rightmire, Orin Kennedy, Jerome Abeyta and Jacob Spencer
New Additions: Josh Archibeque and Donny Trujillo
Season Outlook: “We are looking forward to maintaining the tradition here and establishing an even stronger one. Coach Adam Benavidez took an assistant principal job at Mesa Alta Junior High. He left a strong legacy here and we want to carry it on for him. We have a lot of kids out this year with a 40-man roster. We are hoping to have even 30 of them stay the whole way through with us. Josh Archibeque came back out this year and he will be a good leader along with Kennedy and Abeyta. We also have a bunch of good juniors with a ton of experience. Those guys have been there and done it before for us. We have depth everywhere to help us, and we should be able to put a guy in every weight class all year, which obviously helps a lot. We have a solid coaching staff together with Steve Martinez still here, Jason Luster coming over from Farmington and Brian Robinson is a two-time state guy from Aztec who is bringing a real positive outlook. We have started strong and won the Gallup duals last week. We have been doing a lot of duals and we have been strong in those in the past, but Bloomfield has struggled in individual tournaments. We will see how we do this week when we host the round robin Friday. Our district is going to be tough since St. Mike's is in it, too. Shiprock was second last year and St. Mike's won it. Shiprock is going to be very tough, too. Coach (Ben) Frazier does a great job with those guys. The district tournament is at St. Mike's this year, so they will definitely have a bit more of an advantage there. But it is going to be fun. Right now, our kids are enjoying it and I am encouraged by seeing the steady wave of guys who want to get in and be a part of what we are doing.” — Shoemaker.
Head Coach: Ben Frazier, 2nd season
Key Returners: Raygen Charley, Alex Benally, Cody Allan, Harlan Ross, Danzell Clark and Tristan Mike
New Additions: Josh Atcitty
Season outlook: “Our practices are coming along pretty well right now. We are working on the basics because that is how you win matches at state. If we stick to the basics, they will take us a long way. We have boys coming out for the team, but it is tough to start a program at the high school level when you are still trying to pick up numbers at the youth level. Kirtland and other schools have good youth programs at the junior highs, and a lot of time we are working with kids in high school who have never wrestled. We have one state placer back with Charley, and most of our state qualifiers are back from last year. We got fifth last year at state, and we should be in the mix still this season. I think we are in one of the tougher 3A district out there. Bloomfield has always been tough and now they are back. They will be tough but will be there to challenge them.” - Frazier.