FARMINGTON — The Four Corners has been cranking out top-level wrestling for decades, and it looks like that tradition will continue for the next several years.
Stout Wrestling Academy captured the New Mexico Junior Wrestling state title with 266 team points on Sunday at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.
The Spartans, made up of youth wrestlers ranging from 6 to 15 years old, sent 39 kids to the tournament and came away with seven state champions, eight runners-up and 31 total placers.
"One thing we've been able to do is get kids from everywhere. We have kids from Farmington, Aztec, Durango and Mancos, Colo. We have some families drive an hour and a half to come here a couple nights a week," said Steve Baker, an assistant coach at SWA. "I guess you could say we're kind of a feeder program for a bunch of different schools."
Marie Baker (8U, 46 pounds), Lance Baker (8U, 49), Brayden Harvey (8U, 61) Ian Lujan (10U, 65), Paul Vigil (10U, 70), Bryson Valdez (12U, 75) and Hunter Riddick (15U, 132) all captured individual state titles.
At SWA, kids are taught the very basic fundamentals of wrestling, repeating drills and workouts over and over again. As the wrestlers progress through their training the coaching staff slowly adds more for them to practice.
The philosophy behind the coaching staff's approach is to have the kids who come through SWA's doors fundamentally sound for when they face tougher competition throughout their wrestling careers.
But the physical side of the sport is only part of what the coaches are teaching. They also want their wrestlers mentally ready for what they might face at bigger tournaments as they move from junior wrestling to the high school level.
"To get that exposure when they're young is really important," Baker said. "It helps them get ready for high school and when they're competing in bigger matches. When they get to those matches they're more used to it. The stress level goes down and they start to enjoy it all a lot more."
The state tourney was the biggest tournament some of the kids ever competed at while others had been there before and knew what to expect. But for everyone it was a learning experience.
Zander Bahri (12U, 65) and Kyle Baker (15U, 119) finished second at the tourney. And while both surely wanted to bring state championships home, they understand the lessons learned from placing second will benefit them in the long run.
"Like my coaches said, it was probably the best thing for us," Bahri said. "Now I know what I need to work on and fix for next year."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.