Click photo to enlarge
Jacob Palmgren (top) wrestles Rio Rancho s Ladigo Williams.
Piedra Vista was without two of its varsity wrestlers but still had enough to take down the second-ranked team in the state.
The two-time defending 4A state champion Panthers took care of the Rams 40-25 in a dual-meet Wednesday night inside the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse at Piedra Vista.
“All of the hard work we have put in the room, it really shows out here,” said PV senior Christian Acosta. “I am thankful I have coaches like we do who push us the extra mile to help prepare us for matches like this.”
Acosta (220 pounds) had no problem earning six points for PV in his match Wednesday. Acosta slammed Rio Rancho’s Joey Natewa to the mat for two quick takedown points before pinning Natewa in just 50 seconds.
Dillon Strunk (145) opened the contest with a pin of his own against Rio Rancho’s Aaron Nava 32 seconds into the second round.
Rio Rancho took its only lead of the dual after Miguel Barreras (152) defeated Ryan Rino 13-5 in a major decision and Jordan Lara (160) earned a first-round pin against Joseph Kerr.
But after the Rams took a 10-6 advantage, Wyatt Hardy earned three points for Piedra Vista with a 6-3 minor decision victory over Rio Rancho’s Aaron Dinkel in the 170-pound weight class.
Hardy wrestled up a weight class as PV head coach Levi Stout juggled the lineup a bit Wednesday night.
“Kerr can wrestle anywhere from 152 to 170. We bumped him to 160 today because we knew Hardy could push Rio Rancho’s 170 a bit and make him gas out,” Stout said. “We wanted to keep the pace high, and Hardy stayed busy to come away with a win.”
John Ellsaesser then stepped in at 182 pounds against Rio Rancho’s Jacob Dominguez. Ellsaesser did his part, earning a pin victory in 1:45.
Rio Rancho’s Robert Salgado took a 9-3 win against Zach Ahlgrim in the 195-pound division to cut PV’s lead to just 15-13, but Acosta’s big pin a few moments later gave PV a commanding 21-13 lead halfway through the matches.
Rio Rancho forfeited at heavyweight, and Sam Sandoval kept the PV momentum rolling at 106 pounds with a 12-1 major decision win against Abram Ramos.
“Sandoval has been a hammer for us so far. Last week he beat the No. 1 3A kid in Colorado. He is wrestling the best I have seen him right now,” Stout said.
Phillip Archuleta fell in a close match against Rio Rancho’s Brandon Leyba in the 113-pound division, dropping a 3-2 minor decision.
Jacob Palmgren continued his destruction of opponents at 120 pounds for PV, shutting out Rio Rancho’s Ladigo Williams 6-0.
Palmgren’s win sealed the team victory for PV, too.
“I am glad Palmgren got a pretty dang tough kid to wrestle,” Stout said. “That kid was third in 5A last year at state. He was real tall and long and gave (Palmgren) a bit of trouble, but he handled himself well and came away with a good win.”
Stout once again had to juggle his lineup for the last three matches as Wyatt Weaver (138) continued to sit out with a broken pinky finger. Ryan Ruybalid (126) also sat out with an injury Wednesday.
In place of Ruybalid, Luis Soliz stepped in from the junior varsity team.
Soliz didn’t disappoint, either, wrestling Santiago Salazar close enough to only give up four team points.
“He wrestled super tough only giving up four points,” Stout said. “He actually almost pulled out a win. I think it says loads about our program when an eighth grader like him can step up against the second best team in the state and do work.”
Levi Savage also came up from the JV team to wrestle Rio Rancho’s Orlando Gutierrez at 132 pounds, losing via pin in the second round.
Stout jumped two-time state champion Anthony Juckes from his 132-pound weight class to 138 in another  strategic move Wednesday.
“What we were doing there is, I know Rio Rancho’s 132 is pretty darn tough. I was trying to give up three points with Savage at that weight class because I knew Juckes could pin their 138. I didn’t think we would lose by pin at 132, but that’s what we were doing,” Stout said.
Juckes did his part, quickly pinning a larger Kirk Holloway with just eight seconds left in the second round.
“He was pretty big and I am not used to that,” Juckes said of Holloway. “Even at 132, some of the guys get pretty big for me. But for us to come out here and wrestle the No. 2 team in the state and win like this, it is really nice. We were down varsity guys and mixed things up and still beat the No. 2 team.”
PV is on a roll this season, and Stout hopes to keep it going into the Alamosa tournament this weekend where a New Mexico team hasn’t won since 1999.
“I think we can do it. I don’t want to speak before we do it, but I think we have the team to win it this year,” Stout said.
Stout’s team agrees.
“We have the potential to win it,” Acosta said. “I also think, by seeing how we did tonight, that when we see Cleveland next week in Garden City, Kan., it will be an even better match.”
Durango also attended the meet Wednesday, losing to Rio Rancho 44-18 and Piedra Vista 58-19.