Piedra Vista's Anthony Juckes ends historic career on top
RIO RANCHO — Anthony Juckes saved his best performance for last.
The Piedra Vista senior completed a historic high school career, wrapping up a fifth individual championship in five years with a pin of Belen's Jerry Robinson in the 5A 145-pound championship match.
"It's sunk in a little bit. The emotions are starting to hit me," Juckes said shortly after the match. "I'm very thankful for all the work everyone put in to help me. It's been huge."
He became just the sixth wrestler in state history to accomplish the feat, joining Michael Scott Owen (Carlsbad), Max Ortega (Rio Rancho), Daniel Martinez (Robertson), Koery Windham (St. Michael's) and Rico Montoya (Robertson) on the list.
Even among that elite company, Juckes found a way to distinguish himself from the other five elite wrestlers by becoming the only one of the six to win five team championships to go with the five individual titles. Ortega had the most team titles of the bunch with four for the Rams, prior to Juckes.
"I'm at a loss for word on that," PV head coach Michael Bejar said. "When is that ever going to be done again? Not just in this state, but anywhere? I'm speechless on that one."
Going back to his eighth-grade year in 2011, Juckes thought this dream would be possible after coming through the 106-pound bracket as a No. 4 seed to win his first championship.
"That was a tough tournament, but it ended up going my way," he said of the 2011 title. "It just made me work harder."
It was only appropriate that Juckes' final match sealed the Panthers' fifth team championship.
His pin of Robinson put Piedra Vista ahead of Belen by 19.5 points in the team standings, officially clinching the title since Belen had just three wrestlers left who could contribute a maximum of 18 points to the team score.
Juckes dominated his bracket, picking up first-period falls in all four matches. He said when he saw the draw, he believed he would pin his way through the tournament.
"I looked at the bracket and thought, 'I can do this. I can pin my way through,'" he said. "One thing I wanted to do was not give up any points. The only way to do that is to take someone down and pin them."
With his high school career over, Juckes will begin taking steps toward finding a college to wrestle at while competing in national tournaments.
"I have a visit to Wyoming. We'll see how that goes, then some national tournaments to try and get my name out there," he said.
Bejar knows it will be impossible to replace what Juckes has done for the team in his five seasons.
"Anthony Juckes ... we're going to miss that guy," Bejar said.