Local high school wrestlers earn All-American honors

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Several area prep wrestlers earned All-American status last week during a national tournament hosted by the National High School Coaches Association in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The 33rd annual event welcomed high school wrestlers from all 50 states as well as different countries to compete for the right to be named All-Americans in their respective weight classes.

Aztec's Bryson Valdez and Princess Altsisi earned All-American honors after winning six matches during the three-day event held last month.

Valdez, competing at the 113-lb. weight class, won his opening match against Anthony Piaia from Miami, Florida before defeating Tomah Gummow from Fort Drum, New York and Jaxson Rosselli from Powell, Ohio.

Farmington High School's Ivan Smith flexes after his 170 lbs. championship match win against Los Luna's Miguel Andrade on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Rio Rancho Events Center.

After reaching the quarterfinals at the level, Valdez then lost to California's Isaiah Quintero and Jermaine Peace from South Carolina, earning a seventh-place position in All-American rankings for sophomores at the weight classification.

"(Bryson) is just plain one tough cookie," said Aztec High School wrestling coach Herb Stinson. "He was very upset he didn't place higher but still has lots of wrestling to go yet."

More:Farmington grabs second straight title, Munoz and Altsisi repeat as champs

This is the second consecutive year for Valdez to earn All-American honors. Last year at this same event, Valdez finished seventh as a freshman at the 106-lb. weight class.

"He is truly a student of his craft," Stinson said. "A pure pleasure not only to coach but just plain watch."

Altsisi, who took fourth place All-American honors at the 136-lb. weight class, defeated Natalie Titus from New Bern, North Carolina as well as Tessa Lopardo from Evans, Georgia and Haley Redmond from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Altsisi, who was recently announced as nationally ranked in the top 15 of all high school girls wrestlers in the nation, wrapped up her tournament losing to a pair of California wrestlers, Charlie Jewell and Stephanie Chavez.

"(Princess) has lots of colleges wanting her to come wrestle for them, but she hasn't made a final decision yet," according to Stinson.

Other Aztec wrestlers who took part in the nationals were Talan Olguin and Taner Olguin, who both won three matches in the tournament, as well as Jaylen Ignacio, who went 3-2 for the tournament, as well as Nathan Hare and Logan Barboa. Tigers wrestlers combined for 22 wins and 14 losses during the event. 

Aztec High School's wrestling program is coming off a recent state championship in Class 4A, having won the title last February in the New Mexico Activities Association's state tournament held at Rio Rancho.

"These kids aren't just chasing pipe dreams, they're reaching for the stars and beyond," Stinson said.

Farmington's Ivan Smith, Jr., also earned All-American placings after going 5-2 in the senior division of the 152-lb. weight class.

Smith opened the tournament with a win over Nolan Boyle from Virginia before losing in the second round against Utah's Moses Espinoza-Owens. In the consolation round, Smith then won four matches in a row, over Chase Brandebura from Pennsylvania, as well as Oto Albanese from Massachusetts, Missouri's Evan Morris and Lawrence Rosario from Florida.

Smith's tournament run came to an end after a loss to Brayden Shelton from Missouri.

The Farmington High School boys wrestling team, coached by John Mason, also took a state tile earlier this year. The Scorpions claimed their second consecutive Class 5A state title, narrowly prevailing over La Cueva, Los Lunas and Cleveland High Schools.

For more information on the NHSCA High School Nationals, check out their official website.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.