This year's Piedra Vista wrestling team still needs to win a state championship to be mentioned alongside the teams the past two seasons, but the Panthers did something Saturday the previous teams never did.
Piedra Vista won the 24th Annual Alamosa Invite tournament Saturday with a team score of 199. Mesa Ridge, Colo., took second with 177 and Alamosa, Colo., placed third with 146.
PV became the first team from New Mexico to win the tournament since Aztec won in 2000, with PV head coach Levi Stout in his senior season with Aztec.
"This is pretty special. The year I took over the head coaching job at PV, I made sure we scheduled this tournament because it is so tough, cold, dark and grey. It is Colorado wrestling that is in your face, and that is what we want to be," Stout said. "Alamosa is the defending state champs in Colorado. We came into their house, against their officials and tough Colorado opponents, and we came away with a victory."
Ten of PV's 14 wrestlers placed in the tournament, including four champions.
Jacob Palmgren, who transferred to PV from Del Norte, Colo., this season, won the 120-pound division in a gym and on a mat he was very familiar with.
He was familiar with his opponent, too. Palmgren took on Alamosa's Neff Malouff and the two put on a show for the local fans with Palmgren earning a 6-5 decision victory.
"Palmgren is a San Luis Valley kid. Everyone in the gym knew him and he beat Malouff in a barn burner," Stout said.
Two-time state champion sophomore Anthony Juckes won the 132-pound weight division win a pin victory, one of three pins he recorded Saturday.
"It was nice to get the win. Everyone wrestled hard today, and this is the best we have looked since I have been here, that's for sure," Juckes said. "My eighth grade year we won state pretty big, but I think with this team we can win it even bigger this year."
Ryan Rino also placed first in the 152-pound weight division. It was a big weekend for Rino, who showed some rust in a tri-meet with Rio Rancho and Durango last Wednesday after not wrestling for a few weeks.
"He knocked that rust off Wednesday against some tough guys. The way he wrestled in the first round today, I knew he was back," Stout said. "We earned a lot of bonus points today with Rino and Juckes pinning their guys in the finals. It was the same thing in the semis."
Christian Acosta also won the 220-pound weight division for PV.
Sam Sandoval (106). Dillon Strunk (145) and John Ellsaesser (182) all took second place in their respective weight classes to help PV earn valuable points.
Wyatt Hardy (160) placed third while Phillip Archuleta (112) and Zach Ahlgrim (195) each took fourth.
"We are definitely a great tournament team," Stout said. "Our guys are getting a lot of losses on their records, but that is because we are wrestling top competition. It will hurt us when it comes to seeding at state, but we aren't about seeding criteria, we are about facing the best competition."
Also helping earn points for PV Saturday was Wyatt Weaver. Though he didn't place, the team was impressed with his toughness considering he underwent surgery on one of his hands for a broken pinky less than two weeks ago.
"He was out there earning points with one hand," Stout said. "You can see the program grow right in front of you with the way these kids want to step up and help the team any way they can."
Life won't get any easier for PV this week. The Panthers will travel to Garden City, Kan., to face national competition Thursday and Friday.
"Our guys definitely have an understanding of how tough Garden City is. The mat time we will get against those quality opponents will benefit us in a big way," Stout said. "If we get three or four places there, we will be in great shape."
Juckes is hoping he can be one of those placers.
"There are going to be a bunch of tough kids there. It is a big tournament, and I hope I see the best kids possible," he said.
1. Piedra Vista 199
2. Mesa Ridge, Colo. 177
3. Alamosa, Colo. 146
4. Thunder Ridge, Colo. 117.5
5. Pagosa Springs, Colo. 89.5
6. Delta High, Colo. 78
7. Gateway High, Colo. 75
8. Rocky Ford High, Colo. 65.5
9. Castle View High, Colo. 62
10. John Mall High, Colo. 23.5
106: Sam Sandoval 2nd
113: Phillip Archuleta 4th
120: Jacob Palmgren 1st
132: Anthony Juckes 1st
145: Dillon Strunk 2nd
152: Ryan Rino 1st
160: Wyatt Hardy 3rd
182: John Ellsaesser 2nd
195: Zach Ahlgrim 4th
220: Christian Acosta 1st