FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista High School officials on Sunday named Michael Bejar as the team's head wrestling coach.
Bejar served as an assistant with the team during its three previous seasons and, at the same time, was also the head wrestling coach at Mesa View Middle School.
"He's got a lot of experience. He's coached and wrestled his whole life," PV athletic director Frank Whalen said of Bejar.
He will take over for Levi Stout, whose contract wasn't renewed in March. Stout, who coached the team since 2007, led the wrestling team to four consecutive 4A state championships.
On April 1, the New Mexico Activities Association suspended Stout for 180 days for using ineligible wrestlers at a tournament in December in Reno, Nev. After the suspension, wrestlers mounted a campaign to reinstate Stout, holding several protests and voicing their opinions during a Farmington Municipal School District board of education meeting.
"It's bittersweet, because we'd love to have Levi here," Bejar said of taking over the position. "We talked as a coaching staff, and it felt right to keep (the head coaching job) in house."
Bejar said state title expectations for the program won't change, and he is looking to the upperclassmen to provide leadership on the squad.
"The goal is to keep it going. I don't see too many changes. We have a good group of veterans," Bejar said. "They'll have to provide the leadership, and the young guys need to follow suit. We hope to continue what we've done in the past."
Philip Archuleta, who won the 120-pound 4A individual state title last season, said he's ready to take on the added role under Bejar.
"It's my senior year, and if that's my role, I'm going to do the best I can to lead the team to another state championship," the senior said via Twitter.
Bejar has been one of the top assistants in the state for the past few seasons and was named New Mexico's Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association in March 2013.
"It's a good thing for us. He knows us and how the program has been run and can keep us on a winning track," senior Anthony Juckes said via Twitter. "He knows a lot, and we all get along with him great, and he helps us out a lot. He's been a huge part of our continued success, and he's exactly who we wanted after we knew it couldn't be Coach Stout."
Bejar said he is grateful for the opportunity to continue building the Panthers' wrestling program.
"I just want to thank the administration at Piedra Vista and Mesa View for letting me apply and giving me this chance," he said. "We'll just take it day-by-day. We needed to have some closure and take a step forward. We're probably going to have a big target on our backs again this year."