FARMINGTON — As a three-time defending state champion, Piedra Vista's Anthony Juckes goes into every match with a target on his back, but that's a role the Panther junior relishes.
Juckes stepped up in weight class to 145 pounds for the first time and swept through his five matches at the Aztec Hi-Country Chevrolet Tiger Duals on Saturday. That included wins against Capital's Isaiah Anaya and Cleveland's Jesse Nieto.
"I felt comfortable there," said Juckes, who has been wrestling at 138-pounds this season. "At 138, I felt I could dominate everyone, but at 145 I feel good too. I mean Anaya and Nieto are probably the two best 145s in the state."
Injuries to various wrestlers throughout the season have forced PV to shuffle its lineup, giving Juckes the chance to compete in the 145-pound class, but head coach Levi Stout said he expects Juckes to stick in that division for the rest of the season.
"He wants that higher level of competition and to prove last week wasn't a fluke," Stout said.
Juckes has been among the Panther wrestlers who have battled the injury bug, dislocating his shoulder just before Christmas and forcing him to miss the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno, Nev.
"It wasn't functioning right," he said of his shoulder. "I couldn't move it as much and had to take some time off."
The PV junior couldn't hide his frustration about missing one of the Panthers' biggest tournament of the season.
"I was mad, especially when we got there," Juckes said. "Everyone was warming up and I'm sitting there having do stats and just watch."
Since coming back from the injury however, Stout has seen Juckes' desire to compete increase that much more.
"I think it made him more hungry," Stout said. "Having to sit out at Reno and Moriarty where we saw some decent teams, made him more hungry to get on the mat."
More than 20 matches into the season, Juckes is still undefeated, something he didn't accomplish during his three state title runs.
That elusive perfect season is something that motivated Juckes coming into this year and Stout said as long as he continues the same mental preparation heading into each tournament, then the goal is well within reach.
"As long as he doesn't start wrestling like an undefeated wrestler, he'll be in good shape. He needs to get in a good mind set for every match and we'll be just fine," Stout said. "He's a veteran and he realizes he has to go out there with the same mind set every match and every tournament."
Stout describe Juckes' "mental aggressiveness" as something that sets him apart from other wrestlers in the state and allows him to be successful.
"He comes off as flamboyant sometimes like he has a bad attitude, but he has to get into that mind set to get himself going. It's a challenge to harness that heading into a match but that's his style," Stout said.
Juckes has seen his style on the mat evolve over the years since wrestling at 103-pounds as an eighth grader.
"Now I've got more experience. It's a little bit different being bigger and things are more physical," he said. "When I was in eighth grade, it was more finesse. Now I just add that finesse with more strength and pound on some people, but I've always kept that way of wrestling since I've been moving up."
With three titles heading into his junior year, Juckes has a chance to accomplish what only three New Mexico high school wrestlers have ever done — win five individual championships.
He said his focus is on winning a fourth title this year, but the bigger goal is always in the back of his mind.
"It's a big goal of mine to get five, so I have to get number four first," Juckes said.
Stout said they can't afford to look that far out and need to focus on the individual matches.
"We take it a year at a time and don't want to overstep our bounds," he said. "We never know who's going to be in a weight class the following year or where we're going to be the following year. It's one match and one year at a time."
As important as an individual title is, the ultimate goal for Juckes this season is to help the Panthers raise a fourth consecutive team title banner.
"We're coming along and we're still not at full strength. Our lineup hasn't been the same one time all year," he said. "Capital is supposed to give us a run, but we shut them down this weekend and that felt good. It'd be awesome for the team. It's nice to have all of these banners here."
10 questions with Piedra Vista wrestler Anthony Juckes
Favorite food after making weight: Burritos.
Favorite movie: 21 Jump Street.
What is your favorite and least favorite class: My favorite class is probably anatomy and my least favorite is English.
Favorite music to pump you up for a match: I listen to a lot of different music, but one song I always go to is Survival by Eminem. That always gets me going.
Dream vacation: Somewhere nice and warm, probably Hawaii or the Bahamas.
Favorite athlete: Jordan Burroughs.
What are you plans after high school: I want to go wrestle in college, hopefully somewhere big.
If you could have any superpower, which one would you pick: Invisibility.
Dream car: Bugatti .
What's your favorite move to use when pinning an opponent: I'm liking these arm bars that coach (Ronnie) Clark showed us. They've been successful for me.