FARMINGTON — Without two key members of its varsity squad, the Piedra Vista wrestling team still hung near the top with some of the best teams on the West Coast.
The Panthers entered the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno, Nev., with hopes of finishing in the top-five in the 82-team tournament. That was before three-time defending state champion Anthony Juckes went down with an injury in practice. Still, Piedra Vista's lower-weight classes dominated as the Panthers took sixth place with 147.5 team points.
"Our goals didn't change too much even without Juckes and (Zach Ahlgrim) in our lineup," said PV head coach Levi Stout. "We ended up missing the top-five by only one point. If we have those guys back in our lineup, I think we maybe get third place."
Clovis West, Calif., won the tournament with 258 team points. Folsom, Calif., was second with 225.5, and Del Oro, Calif., was third with 176.5. PV finished one point behind Servite, Calif.
"We grew a lot as a team and won a lot of close matches. That is what you have to do is be in close matches to get better and better," Stout said. "It made our team mentally tough. If we stay at the level we are now when we get back to New Mexico, we will be in great shape."
The top placer for the Panthers was 120-pound senior Jacob Palmgren. Palmgren (19-1) breezed through the bracket with three consecutive pins and a 15-point technical fall to reach the semifinal round. Palmgren took a 14-6 major decision against Kenny Jones of Lassen, Calif., to reach the championship.
In the first-place match, Palmgren faced Michael Knoblauch of Clovis West, Calif. The match went back-and-forth a bit to start, but Palmgren rolled his ankle and was unable to continue. Knoblauch won the match via injury default and Palmgren took second, earning 30.5 team points for PV.
"It was a really bad rolled ankle. He is going to be out a few weeks getting treatment," Stout said. "Jacob gave up the first takedown and then reversed the guy right away. They were going at it pretty good, and then the injury happened. He tried to wrestle through it for about 25 seconds, but I had to call it. He was being really tough."
PV eighth grade wrestler Wes Rayburn (11-2) took fourth in the 113-pound weight class. Because he wasn't in PV's 14-man varsity rotation, he did not earn any team points. He defeated PV varsity wrestler Sam Sandoval (15-2) in a 2-1 decision in the consolation semifinals to reach the third-place match. Rayburn lost a 7-5 decision to Logan Eaton of Oakdale, Calif., in that match.
Sandoval, a junior, took fifth at 113 pounds. He rebounded from his loss to Rayburn with a second-round pin against Joe Britt of Henley, Ore. Sandoval earned 20 team points for PV.
"Wes Rayburn is a stud," Sandoval said. "I can easily picture him being a five-time state champion. He is solid on his feet and on the mat. I am really proud of all of our guys in the lower weights."
Philip Archuleta (15-2) took fifth at 120 pounds to score 17 team points for PV. The junior had three wins via pin to start the tournament before winning an 8-4 decision in the quarterfinals. But Archuleta dropped a 7-0 decision in the semifinals to fall to the consolation ladder. He then lost 4-2 in the consolation semifinals before finishing the Classic with a 3-1 decision win in the fifth-place match against Tyler Ramos of Arbor View, Nev.
"It was hard competition. I expected to face a lot of ranked guys out here, and I am proud of myself for getting fifth," Archuleta said. "I think this tournament is probably harder than state. I am proud of myself and the team for coming together."
PV sophomore Dylan Greenhaus (18-4) took sixth place at 106 pounds for the Panthers. Greenhaus used a 7-6 decision in the third round to reach the quarterfinals, but he dropped a 6-0 decision to fall to the consolation bracket. He won two matches to reach the consolation semifinals, but was pinned in the third round by Ian Timmins of Wooster, Nev. In the fifth-place match, Greenhaus was pinned late in the second round by Henry Cox of North Medford, Ore.
It was a good showing for Greenhaus, who stepped into the PV lineup after beating Taylor Atencio in wrestle-offs.
"He hadn't been on varsity before, and he comes through an 84-team tournament and medals. That is something to build on," Stout said.
Senior Ryan Rino, a defending state champion for PV, had one of the most impressive runs of any wrestler at the Sierra Nevada Classic. He was the only wrestler to lose his very first match of the tournament and still place. Rino took sixth after losing a 4-3 decision to Brandon Okuma of Lowry, Nev., in the fifth-place match. Rino had won seven consecutive matches before losing his last two to finish 7-3 during the three-day meet.
"Ryan had a lot of rust coming off of football. He knocked that off this weekend," Stout said. "It is super impressive for him to place after losing that first match."
A year ago, PV traveled to Garden City, Kan., for another big tournament. Each stop the Panthers make, they hope to put New Mexico wrestling on the map.
"Nobody knew who we were or where we were from when we first got to Reno. All they knew was one New Mexico team was there," Stout said. "We pulled some questionable seeds and didn't get much respect. But, by the end of the first day, people were asking all about our school size and what part of the state we were from. The teams there know who we are now."John Livingston can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.