Bloomfield looking to regain championship form

Kirtland, Shiprock looking up at Bloomfield again

Jake Newby
Bloomfield's Levi Whitley, right, gets ready to wrestle Kirtland Central's Jalen Platero on Feb. 14 during the District 1-4A tournament at Bobcat Gym in Bloomfield.

FARMINGTON – After bringing a district title home last season, the Bloomfield wrestling team fell short of its goal to snag a second consecutive 4A state championship. The Bobcats view the 2014 season as a learning experience and are hungry to get back to the top of the podium this year.

Kirtland Central and Shiprock, who finished second and third, respectively, in District 1-4A, expect to send more talented rosters out to the mats this season. In last year's state tournament, Bloomfield finished fourth out of 15 teams with a total of 160 points, which was 50 points out of third place. Kirtland Central took sixth with 82.5 points, and Shiprock earned 12th with 18 points.

"Things fall into place just right sometimes, and other times, they don't. Sometimes you don't get a call or some things don't go your way, and we kind of put ourselves in that position too often last year, to kind of depend on things that were out of our control," Bloomfield coach Greg Shoemaker said. "That's something we want to avoid this year."

Senior JD Robinson and junior Levi Whitley are two of the top 50 wrestlers in the state, according to Robinson, a runner-up at state last year, wrestles in the 160-pound range, while Whitley wrestles around 120.

Shoemaker expects the two upperclassmen to lead a veteran group in the right direction.

"We've got a lot of juniors and seniors on the team. Before, we've been kind of spread out with our classes," Shoemaker said. "It's pretty nice. I think we're going to be pretty solid throughout."

Avery Scott and David DeHerrera are two more seniors looking to cap solid prep careers this winter. Like Robinson, Scott was a runner-up at state at 145 pounds. David DeHerrera took third at 220.

Bloomfield picked up a 42-30 win over Durango, Colo., in its first meet of the season on Tuesday. The Bobcats won four of the six matches.

Aidan Cockrell was unstoppable for the Broncos last year in earning a 4A state title at 132 pounds. But as good as Cockrell was, he couldn't help Kirtland crack the top five in 4A at state. Had Keishaun Aspaas been healthy last season, the outcome could have been a lot different for the Broncos.

Aspaas, who was a state runner-up in 2013, missed all of last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament toward the end of the 2014 football season. His return should have a positive effect on the rest of the team, according to coach JJ Sandoval.

Kirtland Central's Aidan Crockrell, top, grapples with Silver's Armando Galindo in the 132-pound championship match on Feb. 21 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

"It's going to help Aidan out because he'll have someone there in practice to work with and to push him to get better," Sandoval said of Aspaas' return. "When you've got two state finalists in the room that are going to work hard, hopefully everybody else in the room will see that and say, 'Hey, I want to be a state champ, too.'"

Berry Tom was third last year in his class and should be even better as a senior.

KC's first meet will be the Gallup Dual in the Dunes in Gallup on Saturday. While Sandoval expects his team to perform well, he's looking at the season as more of a marathon than a sprint.

"One thing I've come to learn as a wrestling coach is, it's not how you start, it's how you finish," he said. "Early on, you've got kids who are still trying to get to the weight they want to get to for the year. So you start to get a better idea about your team after Christmas."

It's not a rebuilding year for Shiprock, as assistant coach Sean Hayes said he feels like the Chieftains went through that last year. This season, he said, should be more like infusing the foundation that's been under construction with some fresh, young talent.

"We've got some top guys coming back, and we've also got a lot of new faces," Hayes said. "We're kind of heading into a new direction for Chieftain wrestling. In the past, we've had a lot of veterans lead the way, but we're a bit younger this year, and we look at that as a good thing."

Shiprock found some success last year, winning a couple of regular-season meets. But the Chieftains want to place higher in the 4A state rankings, and they think they have the firepower to do that.

Junior Logan Charley had a winning record in 2014 and was a district runner-up. He will be relied on to take another step forward. One Chieftain leading Shiprock's new youth movement is freshman Cauy Ute, who was a district runner-up in middle school.

Shiprock's season will get underway on Tuesday when Dolores, Colo., comes to visit.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.