KC's Manuelito was a constant for the Broncos

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON — The Kirtland Central wrestling team had its share of frustrations this season.

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

The Broncos were expected to contend for a District 1-5A title and top-10 finish at the state tournament, but inconsistent performances throughout the season kept the team from reaching its potential.

However, KC had one constant in the form of junior 182-pounder Cody Manuelito.

"Cody has been the one consistent thing. He's been the one we could lean on all year," KC coach JJ Sandoval said. "Every match, he doesn't stop. Whether he's winning or losing, he doesn't stop. I hope the other kids see that — especially the younger kids. We have a lot of freshman and sophomores on the team, and I hope they saw that he never stopped. He was always trying to score points."

Manuelito was the Broncos' lone placer at this past weekend's 5A state tournament, reaching his bracket's semifinals before losing his last two matches to place fourth.

It wasn't the finish Manuelito was hoping for, but he'll get another chance when he's back on the mat next year for his senior season, and this year's state experience helped show him what he needs to do to get better.

Kirtland Central's Cody Manuelito, top, pins Farmington's James Schryver on during the 5A state wrestling tournament on Friday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

"I need to put in a lot more work in the wrestling room and the weight room," said the soft-spoken Manuelito after losing a 10-6 decision in the third-place match.

Even though Manuelito finished the season with a 44-4 record, he could have been more dominant had he not been dealing with nagging injuries through most of the season. He had a bad calf and shoulder that limited him at times.

If he can stay healthy, Manuelito will be a favorite for a state title in 2018. He has his sights set on a state championship and an undefeated season, and the pain of losing his final two matches this year will be motivation for him over the next year.

"I told Cody after he lost to remember that sting and that hurt that he feels. He needs to think about that during the offseason and next year," Sandoval said. "He needs to remember how much it hurt and stung so it motivates him for next year's state tournament, and hopefully he'll have his hand raised as a state champ."

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