4A State Wrestling: Kirtland Central's Aidan Cockrell wins 132-pound title
RIO RANCHO — The lone San Juan County champion in the 4A state wrestling tournament came from an unlikely spot.
Kirtland Central's Aidan Cockrell entered the 132-pound bracket unseeded but emerged with his hand raised on Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Cockrell's journey to the title began Friday with a pin of Shiprock's Latrell Ben, followed by a stunning upset of the No. 1 seed, Ivan Rodriguez from Cobre, in a 3-2 decision.
With the top wrestler in the bracket out of the way, the KCHS junior went to work on Saturday, defeating No. 4 seed Michael Qunitana of Pecos 5-0 before dispatching of the No. 2 seed, Armando Galindo of Silver, 6-1 in the championship match.
Cockrell said the win Friday over the top seed gave him the belief he could be a champion.
"I knew I could beat some tough guys, and it feels good to do it," he said. "I came in here knowing what I needed to do. I've been here before and haven't got the place I wanted."
KCHS head coach JJ Sandoval said Cockrell came into the bracket under the radar after missing a month early in the season, but when the two looked at the matchups, they thought he could make a title run.
"When I talked with him and saw the kids in the bracket, I knew he could pull it off," Sandoval said. "The adversity he overcame this year is phenomenal."
Cockrell is the first individual champion for KCHS in Sandoval's five-year tenure, and the coach hopes his win, coupled with sending all 14 wrestlers to the state tournament, will get the Bronco wrestling program on a good path.
"We're still young and have a lot of kids coming back," Sandoval said. "I hope they see Aidan getting his hand raised at the end and it gives them a hunger so that they're the next champ at Kirtland Central."
Bloomfield came up short in its title defense bid, finishing in fourth place as a team behind Robertson, Silver and Cobre.
The Bobcats went home without an individual champion, as well, with Gage Krielick (126), Avery Scott (145) and JD Robinson (160) posting second-place finishes.
"Last year, everything went just right," Bloomfield head coach Greg Shoemaker said. "Some years, it just flows. We had opportunities, but we just couldn't run the gauntlet. It was close, but no cigar."
A total of eight Bobcats placed, with Donny Trujillo (132) and Lorenzo LaMere (285) taking third, and Jacob Spencer (152), Levi Whitley (120) and David DeHerrera (220) placing fourth.
KCHS had one other placer beside Cockrell with Tom Berry taking third at 195 pounds. The Broncos finished in sixth place as a team.
Shiprock didn't place any wrestlers and finished 12th in the team standings.