No. 2 story of the 2010s: Aztec wrestling wins back-to-back titles in wake of AHS shooting

Matt Hollinshead,
Aztec's Dylan St. Vrain puts Bloomfield's Jacob Benedict in a headlock on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

FARMINGTON — Sports and its moments of triumph can bring people together following unfathomable tragedy.

In the aftermath of the 2017 Aztec High School shooting, the AHS wrestling program was primed to make a state title run. And the Tigers did just that, in back-to-back years.

Aztec won the blue trophy in 2018, its first in 16 years. The Tigers repeated as state champions in 2019.

Josiah Griego won an individual title in 2018, while Cody Candelaria and Hunter Medina won individual titles in 2019.

Christian Robison won back-to-back individual titles in 2018 and 2019, and Aztec had multiple wrestlers secure second and third-place honors across the board.

The 2018 state wrestling championships also featured the first-ever girls wrestling state championships, and Bella Wells became the first Aztec girls wrestler to win it all. She cruised to first place via three consecutive pins.

In 2019, Princess Altisi brought home state runner-up honors, while Makayla Munoz took third place in her weight division.

Aztec’s back-to-back state titles represented a storybook ending to a nightmarish ordeal.

Aztec’s core group from the last two years has been stout across the board, particularly the lighter- and middle-weight divisions.

And perhaps the exciting part for the Tigers is they have much of that same key group intact entering the 2020 state championships, in which Aztec looks to three-peat.

Aztec's Garrett Birzer locks up the left arm of Kirtland Central's Tobey John on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at KCHS.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.