Wrestlers set to invade Rio Rancho for state

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON – San Juan County will be well represented when the 2016 state wrestling tournament gets underway Friday morning at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Wrestling programs from Piedra Vista, Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield, Kirtland Central and Shiprock will combine to send 81 athletes to the state tournament.

Piedra Vista's Diego Sanchez, left, wrestles Aztec's Josiah Griego during the 5A state qualifying tournament on Saturday at Scorpion Gym.

In 5A, PV and Aztec will send wrestlers for all 14 weight classes after the two programs saw wrestlers receive wild-card bids earlier this week.

PV’s Dominic Arellano (113) received a wild-card bid to give the Panthers’ their 14th man and bolster the team’s chance of capturing a sixth straight state title.

“It’s going to be everything,” PV head coach Michael Bejar said of sending 14 wrestlers. “Bottom line, we’re going to need a total team effort. Every point is going to count. It’s going to be exciting, and we’re excited. This is the weekend that we live for.”

Aztec’s Zane Bradshaw (152) and Jared O’Toole (220) also received wild-card bids to complete a full roster for the Tigers.

After qualifying six wrestlers during the District 1-5A meet last week, Farmington was hoping for a few wild-card bids to put it in a position to improve on its 17th-place finish last year and return to the top 10. The number of bids the Scorps received came as a surprise to head coach Jesus Mendoza when seven Scorps —Trevor Schofield (106), Jake Linnens (126), Gavin Blair (132), Francisco Alvarez (145), Isiah Frank (160), Larry Miller (182) and James Schryver (195) — were on the list.

“We kind of fell down last year, and we’re trying to pick ourselves back up to finish in the top 10, and with 13 going, it improves our chances,” Mendoza said. “They’re ecstatic. The tempo in the room has been great, and we’re getting a lot of good work. James Schryver, he’s so excited, he can’t see straight, and Trevor Schofield, it was heartbreaking for him not to qualify at district, but once he got the draw, he’s been working hard all week long.”

In 4A, the Bloomfield and KC programs didn’t need help from wild-card bids to send wrestlers to state after the Bobcats and Broncos qualified wrestlers for all 14 weight classes during the District 1-4A tournament last week.

Kirtland Central's Aidan Cockrell pins Bloomfield's Diego O'Neill during the Aztec Tiger Duals on Jan. 23 in Aztec.

Shiprock saw nine wrestlers qualify during the district tournament and had another three — Chassity Todacheenie (120), Zhoniba Belone (138) and Julian Aspaas (152) — earn wild-card bids to bring its total to 12.

PV won the 5A title last year after mounting a comeback on the second day of action to edge Belen 294.5 to 283.

Aztec finished 10th last year with 77 points while Farmington landed in 17th place with 28 points.

After winning the state title in 2014, Bloomfield settled for fourth place last year, finishing with 160 points. KC was sixth with 82.5 points, and Shiprock ended up 12th with 18 points.

Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday and will continue through Saturday afternoon.

“It comes down to going out there, doing what they do best and wrestling,” Bejar said. “It’s just another wrestling match, but the most important thing is having fun.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.