Piedra Vista in seventh after Day 1 of Tournament of Champions
FARMINGTON – The Aztec wrestling team couldn't sustain its pace as the top team of the Blackwatch Tournament in Upland, Calif., Tuesday, but performed well enough for a fourth-place finish out of 63 schools.
The Tigers closed out the first day of the two-day tourney with a 7-point lead. They still wrestled well on Tuesday, but were inconsistent in the semifinals.
With a final total of 166.5, Aztec finished 14.5 points out of third and 50.5 points out of first, which was claimed by Roosevelt, Calif, for the second consecutive year.
Tigers coach Monte Maxwell said he was happy with the outcome, but his wrestlers need to find a way to finish.
"We led by 3 points in the middle of the semifinal, then that's when things started dropping off a bit," Maxwell said. "We dropped a few matches we probably shouldn't have, but I'm happy with our performance as a team."
Individually, Austin Littlefield (145) and Cody Candelaria (120) were both runners-up in their respective weight classes. Littlefield scored four pins on Tuesday before losing in the finals.
Josh Snow (160) earned fifth place, while Brandon Trennepohl (132) and Tommy Fletcher (113) both landed in sixth. Josiah Greigo (106) took seventh.
Those six placers are one more than Aztec had at Blackwatch last year. Snow is the only senior, so Aztec should return five of those placers to next year's tourney.
Maxwell said he came to California with hopes of improving on last year's showing, and his team certainly did that.
"We came in hungry for a better result than last season, and we got that," Maxwell said. "The kids wrestled extremely tough. The work ethic was there."
Aztec was the only team out of New Mexico to crack the top 10 placers. The Tigers wrestle next in Pagosa Springs, Colo., at the Rocky Mountain Invitational on Jan. 9.
Piedra Vista found some success on Tuesday, but not quite as much success as coach Michael Bejar would have hoped for.
After Tuesday's action at the Tournament of Champions in Norwalk, Calif., PV sat in seventh place with 80 points. But a great day today could do wonders for the Panthers, as they are only 4 points out of fifth and 6 points out of third.
Seven Panther wrestlers have qualified for the second day, and six are in the quarterfinals. Those six are Dylan Greenhaus (120), Taylor Atencio (132), Wes Rayburn (138), Nick Rino (145), Hosman Caraveo (152) and Marcillino Marquez (195).
The seventh qualifier — Diego Sanchez (106) — will wrestle in the backside consolation bracket.
Bejar said he's proud of his qualifiers, but he thinks his kids who were eliminated need to wrestle with more urgency going forward.
"Those guys know they have to be more assertive," Bejar said. "They have to wrestle the entire six minutes if they expect to win. Four matches we were ahead in and lost. Those are huge points going into quarters."
The tournament finishes tonight at Cerritos College.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.