Tigers finish 3rd, win two individual titles

Karl Schneider
  • Aztec's Austin Littlefield and Cody Candelaria won state titles to lead the Tigers.
  • Bloomfield's Levi Whitley scored an escape with one second left in the third to win the 132-pound title.
  • Farmington sophomore Dante Norberto placed second after a battle in the 285-pound championship.

RIO RANCHO — The Aztec wrestling team is bringing home a team trophy from the state tournament for the first time since 2011.

Aztec's Cody Candelaria, top, grapples with Miyamura's Aaron Baldonado during the 126-pound championship match title match on Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Aztec's day went about as well as the Tigers could've hoped for. A total of four of the team's five semifinalists reached the finals, and six total wrestlers finished on the podium to lead the team to 148.5 points and a third-place finish at the 5A tournament today at the Santa Ana Star Center.

Belen won the 5A title with 211 points. Capital was second with 172.5.

Cody Candelaria (126) and Austin Littlefield (152) picked up state titles while Josiah Griego (113) and Dominic Dufur finished second.

"Josiah had a tough match, and it could have gone either way, and Cody, Cody wrestled phenomenally," Aztec coach Monte Maxwell said. "But I was very impressed with Dufur. He came away with a loss, but he went out there and got after it."

Littlefield and Candelaria finished the season with matching 47-1 records to go with their titles.

"It feels great. I don't really know how to explain it," Littlefield said.

Aztec's Garrett Birzer (120) lost his semifinal match, but rallied through the consolation bracket to reach the third-place match and win with a pin.

Hunter Medina was the Tigers's sixth placer, finishing fifth after an 11-5 decision over Valencia's Lane Moss.

Bloomfield finished seventh at the tournament with 104 points, a big improvement from when the Bobcats placed fourth at the District 1-5A tournament last week.

Senior Levi Whitley led the Bobcats with a thrilling win in the 132-pound title match.

Bloomfield's Levi Whitley, top, wrestles Capital's Alex Wisdom in the 5A 132-pound title match on Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

With the score at 0-0 late in the second period, Whitley scored a reversal right before the whistle blew to end the period, giving him a 2-0 lead. But his opponent, Capital's Alex Wisdom, returned the favor, scoring his own reversal with 20 seconds left in the third to bring the score to 2-2 with all signs pointing to overtime.

And that's when Whitley created a little magic, sneaking away for an escape with one second left to steal a 3-2 win and the title.

"All that was going through my head was, 'It's my last year, I better make it worth it," Whitley said of the final seconds of the match. "I didn't want to go into overtime."

Bloomfield coach Greg Shoemaker said the thrills of Whitley's title are something that happens with regularity when the senior is on the mat.

Farmington's Dante Norberto, right, makes an escape against Belen's Estevan Chavez during the 285-pound championship match title match on Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

"He's a special kid. You get a special kid. I've been doing this for a long time, and every once in a while you get a special kid, and he's one of them," Shoemaker said.

Avery Scott (160) and Michael DeHerrera (220) placed third. Logan Kinslow (120) finished fifth for the Bobcats.

Farmington finished ninth with 89 points and had podium finishes from four wrestlers.

Sophomore Dante Norberto (285) led the way with a runner-up finish, losing 6-3 in the title match.

"For a young kid, a sophomore, to be No. 2 in the state, he did everything right," Farmington coach Jesus Mendoza said of Norberto. "He gave (Belen's Estevan Chavez) all he could ever want in that match. You could tell (Chavez) was nervous in that match, and Dante gave him all he could take."

Junior Traedan Allison (138) and senior Francisco Alvarez (145) both placed third, and eighth-grader Taeoma Frank finished sixth.

Kirtland Central's Cody Manuelito looks for an escape against Albuquerque Academy's Mitchell Nunez during the 182-pound third-place match title match on Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

KC didn't have the strong weekend it had hoped for, finishing 15th with 46.5 points, but the three Broncos who made it to the second day — Jalen Platero (138), Jarryd Pollard (160) and Cody Manuelito (182) -— finished with solid performances.

"My three kids who came back today, every one of them wrestled hard and left it on the mat," KC coach JJ Sandoval said. "That's what I want to see. Whether they win or lose, they didn't stop wrestling, and that's what I want to see all 14 of our guys do — wrestle like the three who did today."

Manuelito was the Broncos' lone placer, finishing fourth after losing a 10-6 decision in the third-place match.

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