Prep Newsmaker: Sanchez-Morales wrestles carefree

Piedra Vista senior said freeing his mind helped him roll through the 106-pound bracket of this year's Doc Wright Invitational

Jake Newby

FARMINGTON — At this weekend's Doc Wright Invitational, Piedra Vista High School wrestler Diego Sanchez-Morales finally hurdled some of the mental blockades that had been holding him back this season.

Piedra Vista wrestler Diego Sanchez-Morales poses for a portrait on Jan. 15 at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington.

The senior went into the tournament in Winslow, Ariz., as the fifth seed in the 106-pound weight class, and he came away from it as the champion.

Sanchez-Morales took no shortcuts en route to the crown, defeating the No. 1, 2 and 4 seeds along the way.

PV wrestling coach Michael Bejar said Sanchez-Morales, who has a record of 19-5 this season, has underachieved at times due to what the coach believes are lapses in the non-physical aspects of the sport.

"I think a lot of times this year, he's been hurting himself by overthinking and taking himself out of matches, prior to them even happening," Bejar said. "We teach the kids that it's all about perspective and body language, and the way you carry yourself. Are you loose? Are you uptight? Are you thinking too much? Are you doing the right things so that everything is out of your mind, and you can just concentrate and have fun wrestling?"

On Saturday, the first day of the tourney, Bejar said he got the sense that Sanchez-Morales' mind was in the right place.

"Well, I went to wake up the kids that morning to see if they were making weight and what not," Bejar said. "He comes walking down the hallway with a big smile on his face and says, 'Good morning, coach.' And I said to myself, 'He's gonna win today.'"

Piedra Vista's Diego Sanchez-Morales, top, wrestles Rio Rancho's Alex Emmer on Jan. 3 at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

Bejar was right about his prediction. Sanchez-Morales was on fire during the two-day event, going 4-0 and taking out three of the top four seeds in the bracket. He beat No. 4 Oscar Sepulveda out of Peoria, Ariz., by a 6-0 decision in the quarterfinals before pinning wrestler Tanner Crosby, of St. John's, Ariz., 18 seconds into the second period of their semifinal match.

After wrestling for one period with Crosby, the No. 1 seed in the bracket, Sanchez-Morales said he knew he could pick up the win.

"After the first period, I felt how he wrestled and knew I could take him out right away," he said. "So I hit a fan Granby that kind of got things going a little crazy. Then I snatched up a cradle."

A familiar face stared at Sanchez-Morales from across the mat before the final. Kamron Whitewater, the Page, Ariz., wrestler who defeated Sanchez-Morales in the fifth-place match of last year's Doc Wright Invite, was the PV grappler's last obstacle.

With the tournament title on the line, Sanchez-Morales scored sweet revenge over Whitewater with a 13-1 win.

"I knew I shouldn't have lost that fifth-place match," Sanchez-Morales said. "I wanted to make a statement, like, 'Hey, I'm the champ here.'"

The lightest wrestler on a team typically wrestles first during meets. For PV, that is Sanchez-Morales, and the senior said he has sometimes made a bad habit of putting too much pressure on himself to get the Panthers off on the right note. And, in turn, he's had a tendency to overthink.

"I start the team off, so I always want to start them off right and get the fire started," Sanchez-Morales said. "I put it on myself. It's not really something I should worry about, but it can be."

But it was evident that Sanchez-Morales refrained from overthinking over the weekend. He said a carefree mindset is something he'll try to bring to his remaining matches this season.

And when those matches come, having fun competing will be his top priority.

"I just gotta remember it's just a sport, and many years down the road, it won't really matter that much," Sanchez-Morales said. "Just gotta have fun with it."

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

A closer look: Diego Sanchez-Morales

1. Favorite athlete?

"Larry Fitzgerald."

2. Favorite team?

"Arizona Cardinals."

3. Favorite food?


4. Favorite musician?


5. Favorite subject in school?


6. Least favorite subject?


7. Biggest fear?

"Being a disappointment."

8. Do you play any other sports?


9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?

"Buy my parents a house."

10. Do you have any pre-match rituals?

"Really all I do is I try to get my mind right. Then I pray right before."