RIO RANCHO — The Aztec wrestling team is in position for a podium finish at the 5A state wrestling tournament.
The Tigers sit in third place after the first day of wrestling at the Santa Ana Star Center, narrowly ahead of Roswell and Valencia, but the Tigers could get a push after placing five wrestlers in the semifinals.
"Hopefully, we can push four or five through into the finals. We have to come out and wrestle tomorrow," Aztec coach Monte Maxwell said. "Hopefully, they can calm their nerves and wrestle relaxed. They've wrestled at this tournament before, and bigger tournaments. They've been in this position, and hopefully, they can come out and handle it."
Defending 5A champ Belen holds the top spot after today with 96.5 points, followed by Capital with 82.5.
The Tigers picked up 71.5 points, just ahead of Roswell with 70 and Valencia with 67.
Aztec's Josiah Griego (113), Garrett Birzer (120), Cody Candelaria (126), Dominic Dufur (145) and Austin Littlefield (152) reached the semis.
Bloomfield sits in seventh place with 61 points.
The Bobcats got off to a great start in the first round, getting nine wins in the opening round. But Bloomfield couldn't keep the wins coming and had just three of the nine advance to the semis.
"Our kids came out and wrestled well in the first round, then the second round, we ended up wrestling almost all No. 1 or No. 2 seeds," Bloomfield coach Greg Shoemaker said. "But the kids wrestled really well today. I'm really pleased with how everyone wrestled today. For a lot of our guys, it was the best they've wrestled."
Seven Bobcats advanced to the second day. Levi Whitley (132), Avery Scott (160) and Michael DeHerrera (220) are Bloomfield's representatives in the semis.
Farmington and Kirtland Central had some rough showings on the first day.
Heading into the second day, Farmington sits in 10th place with 54 points while KC is in 14th with 39.5 points.
Five Scorps made it out of the first day, and three of those five — Traedan Allison (138), Francisco Alvarez (145) and Dante Nortbero (285) — made it to the semifinals.
"We had a tough afternoon. We lost some key kids who could have racked up a bunch of points for us," Farmington coach Jesus Mendoza said. "We wrestled some good matches and lost to some tough competition. We'll keep working with what we have."
The Broncos had about as bad of a start to the day as possible, winning only two of their 11 matches in the opening round.
KC bounced back in the first round of consolation matches, winning nine of 10 matches. But the team couldn't keep the momentum going and will only send three wrestlers into Saturday.
"We didn't wrestle our best. I don't think we wrestled to our potential," KC coach JJ Sandoval said. "I think we definitely underachieved. I think we're a lot better, but we didn't perform. The last few weeks have been rough. We were doing super good, but lately we haven't been improving like we should be."
KC's Cody Manuelito (182) advanced to the semis, winning by fall in his two matches.
Wrestling resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.