RIO RANCHO — Kirtland Central didn't have as strong of a state tournament as wrestling coach JJ Sandoval would have hoped, but he was extremely proud of three Broncos who placed Saturday.
David White (113) and Sam Chee (145) each placed fourth while freshman Keishaun Aspaas took sixth.
White wrestled in the 4A semifinals where he was narrowly defeated by eventual state champion Adrian George of Santa Fe in a 5-2 decision.
"He came out and wrestled tough. We had a chance and opportunities against the Santa Fe kid, but came up just a little short," Sandoval said of his junior. "I am hoping it motivates him to work 10 times harder. I don't have any complaints about the way he wrestled, because he ended up wrestling the George kid a lot tougher than the kid in the finals did."
White eventually dropped the third-place match to Piedra Vista's Philip Archuleta. Archuleta won the grudge match after beating White in overtime a week before White got the best of Archuleta in the District 1-4A final.
Chee, a senior, earned his first state medal Saturday with this fourth-place finish.
After losing in the quarterfinals to Dillon Strunk of Piedra Vista, Chee battled his way back through the consolation ladder to see Strunk one more time.
Chee didn't have enough to get past Strunk, but taking fourth was a great way to exit for the senior who had never placed before.
"Sam has been my guy who doesn't say anything and is real quiet, but he works so hard," Sandoval said. "I am glad to see him leave with a medal.
Aspaas didn't finish as high as he would have liked, but losing a tough semifinal to Ricardo Alvarado of Los Lunas in a 3-1 decision was hard for him to overcome, especially considering he would have scored a reversal on Alvarado to tie the match if it has lasted one second longer.
"I think when you lose a big match like that in the semis, a lot of times kids mentally shut down," Sandoval said. "I don't know if that happened, but he went from his semis to his next match against a Deming kid who I thought we could beat and he kind of got handled. Then we get to the fifth-place match against a Belen kid who we have beat before and the same thing happens."
Aspaas has three years to improve upon his finish, and Sandoval is confident White and Aspaas can continue to push each other to be state champions.
"I am hoping with those two guys back in the room as partners that they can push and motivate each other and work harder," he said. "When you are wrestling against a state placer every day, those kids are only going to make each other better."