5A State Wrestling: Piedra Vista stages finals comeback to win fifth championship
RIO RANCHO — The "Drive for Five" had a few bumps in the road, but when it mattered most, the Piedra Vista wrestling team was at its best.
The Panthers entered the finals trailing a strong Belen squad by 4.5 points, but came out victorious in five of their six title matches to pass the Eagles and win a fifth straight wrestling state title 294.5-283 at the Santa Ana Star Center on Saturday.
"It was the magic No. 14," PV head coach Michael Bejar said, referring to his 14 state placers. "We have three goals — to get everyone to the second day, to get everyone on the podium and to win our last match. If you do those three, good things will happen. It was a total team effort."
Anthony Juckes (145 pounds), Philip Archuleta (126) and Nick Rino (138) knocked off three Eagles to claim championships, while Sam Sandoval (120) and Wes Rayburn (132) defeated wrestlers from St. Pius X and Los Lunas to come out on top of their weight classes.
"Those guys know that when the lights are turned on, there is no pressure," Bejar said. "They did an outstanding job."
Juckes won with a first-round pin of Belen's Jerry Robinson, making him only the sixth wrestler in state history to win five individual titles in five years. It was only fitting that his pin locked up the team's fifth straight title, as well, officially putting the championship out of Belen's reach.
"We got rolling there at the end," Juckes said. "Rino's pin before mine was huge, and Phil's win earlier dismantled their team."
Sandoval and Archuleta won by decision to lock up their second individual title. Sandoval knocked off Gavino Hernandez of St. Pius 6-4. Hernandez was the champion in the 106-pound bracket in 2014.
The PV senior said it was important to get out and set the tone for the team in the finals against a tough opponent.
"I knew he won state last year," Sandoval said. "I had to start things off right."
Archuleta picked up a critical victory against Belen's Anthony Trujillo with an 8-2 decision to win his second title in as many years and kick start the Panthers' comeback against the Eagles.
"It feels awesome. I'm glad I had a Belen kid," Archuleta said. "It only motivated me more to win that match."
Rino and Rayburn each won their first individual titles as freshmen.
Rino pinned Belen's Matthew Lucero, who entered the match win just one loss and was the top seed in the 138-pound bracket.
The PV freshman got a little help from his brother and 2014 PV graduate Ryan Rino, who beat Lucero in a state title match last season.
Nick Rino said the advice he got from his brother and from the senior Sandoval gave him the confidence to pull out the win.
"He beat me 10-5 last time, and I came in thinking that it would be a rough ride, and if I lose, it'd be all right," Rino said. "I talked to Sam,, and he said, 'Wrestle him like you wrestle me in the room.' I felt so much more comfortable. I tilted him, and he just broke. Ryan gave me a lot of advice, too. He gave me more than anyone, and I owe him."
Rayburn dominated the 132-pound bracket from start to finish, sealing the title with a 6-0 win against Austin Sauceda in the final.
After picking up his first title as a freshman, Rayburn isn't satisfied with just one and plans on reeling off three more in his upcoming seasons.
"It's unbelievable. I don't know how to explain it," said Rayburn, who finished as the runner-up as an eighth-grader last year.
Bejar is expecting Rino and Rayburn to lead the next group of Panther champions.
"How about those two freshmen phenoms?" Bejar said. "They're around that senior leadership, and those guys know what to do and how to train. They're going to be that next wave."
The Panthers also got key wins in third-place matches against Belen.
Dylan Greenhaus won a 4-0 decision over Danny Evans of the Eagles in the 113-pound bracket, then Andrew Abeyta defeated David Martinez 6-3 in overtime.
The third- and fifth-place matches proved crucial to the Panthers, who were able to cut a 14.5-point Belen lead to 4.5 by the time the championship matches began.
Piedra Vista placed all 14 wrestlers for the second straight year, and Bejar said that's one of the accomplishments he's most proud of this season.
Wyatt Weaver (160) took second for PV after reaching the final, but falling 3-2 to No. 1 seed Marcus Trujillo.
Alberto Marquez (195) and Tristan Dwinell (220) joined Greenhaus and Abeyta with third-place finishes.
Hosman Caraveo (152) took fourth, while Ethan Salazar (106), Aaron Rino (170) and Keenan Lee (285) all came in fifth.
PV and Belen separated from the rest of the field, finishing more than 100 points ahead of third-place Valencia.
Aztec had four placers — Austin Littlefield (138) in third place, Ethan Reimers (160) in fourth, Dominic Dufur (145) in fifth and Orien Israel (182). The Tigers took 10th with 77 points.
Farmington High's Cobey Hamblin was the Scorpions' lone placer, finishing fourth at 126 pounds.
The Scorpions took 17th with 28 points.