Panthers in familiar spot at state tournament

Farmington Daily Times
Piedra Vista's Alberto Marquez works for a pin against Espanola Valley's Marcos Gallegos during their match Friday at the 5A state tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

RIO RANCHO – The Piedra Vista wrestling team may be experiencing a bit of déjà vu at the 2016 5A state wrestling tournament.

After the first day of competition Friday, the Panthers found themselves trailing Belen by a margin of only 116-112, similar to last year when they trailed the Eagles 129-122.5 after the first day.

And just like last year, PV will send 10 wrestlers into today's semifinals at the Santa Ana Star Center.

“When I said the other day that it was going to take everybody, I meant it,” PV head coach Michael Bejar said. “Those three guys we have out, that hurts. Our first goal is always to get everybody to the second day. Having 10 guys in the semis is huge.”

Of the 10 Panthers who advanced to the semifinals, Dylan Greenhaus (120), Marcos Candelaria (126), Wes Rayburn (138) and Nick Rino (145) won their two matches by falls.

Maybe the biggest win of the day for the Panthers didn’t come in the quarterfinals, but in the final match of the day in the 285-pound class’s consolation bracket.

Down 1-0 in the second period, Jared Terry got a reversal on Los Lunas’ Troy Skinner and recorded a pin for the win.

“I think, ultimately, it’s going to come down to the backside tomorrow,” Bejar said. “That was a great win for Jared. I really am happy for him. He had a tough go of it at the beginning of the season, and now he’s competing. Bottom line, win or lose, if they’re competing, they’re doing good things out there.”

With Terry’s win, the Panthers will have 11 wrestlers alive in today's action. Belen has 13 wrestlers remaining.

Ten of Belen’s wrestlers made it into the semifinals, and PV and the Eagles will face off in four semifinal matches.

Aztec finished the first day with 86.5 points and sits in fourth place. The Tigers placed nine wrestlers on the top side of the bracket after the first round, and six of those advanced to the semifinals.

“We’re pretty happy with day one,” Aztec head coach Monte Maxwell said. “Now we have to come in (today) and win some matches.”

Aztec's Austin Littlefield, top, works against Moriarty's Konner Bond during their match at the 5A state tournament on Feb. 18 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

The Tigers' Melvin Benally (182), Dylan Sutherland (195) and Tyler Robeson (285) won by fall in each of their two matches, while Cody Candelaria (120) picked up the maximum points possible with a forfeit and pin in his two matches.

Benally’s second pin showed an impressive amount of heart and courage. In the second round of his match against Capital’s DJ Williams, Benally’s left knee was twisted, forcing a break in the action while trainers examined him. After getting to his feet, Benally struggled to put any weight on his left leg, but elected to continue wrestling. And in the final seconds of the second round, he recorded the pin.

“That shows a lot of toughness in Melvin. He tweaked his knee a bit, but he was able to come back and win the match,” Maxwell said.

Farmington entered the tournament with the goal of finishing in the top 10, and after a strong first day, the Scorps sat in sixth place 51.5 points.

Eight wrestlers — led by Traedan Allison (138) and Aaron Newlon (152), who both reached the semifinals — remained in action for the Scorps.

Farmington's Aaron Newlon controls Del Norte's Julian Barros in their match Friday at the 5A state tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

“I am completely, completely happy with the entire team," Farmington head coach Jesus Mendoza said. "We’ve learned a lot at this tournament, and it’s only going to help us grow in the future. The kids have a lot of learning experiences they’ve encountered. Whether it was a win or a loss, it’s helping our program grow and get bigger and better.”

Wrestling will resume at 9 a.m. today at the Santa Ana Star Center.

“We’ve got to keep battling,” Bejar said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a dogfight ... and we have to be tough. You've got to love it. This is what we live for.”

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