Following their usual annual competition rotation, the Taos High School Tigers wrestling team just completed their “eight-day slam” that included two away tournaments and a home meet from Jan.12-20.
Fresh off their return from a two-day event at Pueblo Centennial High School in Colorado Jan. 12-13, the Tigers rolled out the home mat and hosted the Taos Dual Jan. 16. Then it was back on the bus for a three-hour trip to Trinidad, Colorado to finalize their “southern swing” and participate in the Gene Gagliardi Invitational Jan. 19-20.
This latest tournament was the third trip outside of New Mexico – capping a month-long slate of events in Colorado – a tough schedule (by design) for the Tigers, who started the month in Pagosa Springs, Colorado Jan. 5.
“We choose to grind it out with the competition in Colorado because we feel like we can only get better and learn a thing or two from those really strong programs,” said coach Robert Valencia. “It might not make us look good on paper, but I would rather have my guys ready for districts and state.”
In Pueblo, the Tigers finished 12th out of a field of 21 participating teams – scoring 69 points with just 10 wrestlers making the trip. For the Taos Duals, the St. Michael High School Horsemen and West Las Vegas High School Dons accepted the invitation to enter the throes in Otero Gymnasium to challenge the hosts. Taos emerged as the dominant team finishing 2-0, followed by West who came in second at 1-1 and St. Mike’s, who was blanked 0-2. Against West Las Vegas, a few of the matches were unexpectedly close.
“West is an up-and-coming program, and we’re going to have to keep tabs on them,” said Valencia, alluding to the Don’s build-up overseen by their coach, Juan Montaño. “We know we have a bullseye on our backs.”
At the Gagliardi Invitational, Taos entered just 11 grapplers in the varsity division and finished in fourth place with 125 points.
Top point-getters for Taos included Estevan Valerio who placed second in the 170-pound division and scored 23 team points. Jonathan Garcia also came in second in the 138-pound division and added 17 points to the team till. Also in the 132-pound division, Tyler Valencia placed fourth in his respective bracket, earning 18 team points.
Christopher Valencia (120-pounds) and Dominic Lopez (285-pounds) each garnered 18 points for Taos after placing third in their respective divisions. Rounding out the double-digit scorers was Jessie Ayala (220-pounds), who placed fifth, and Brian Moraga (195-pounds) who finished sixth, each earning 11 team points.
Other scorers included Clayton Demas, who placed sixth in the 182-pound division and scored seven points, and Angeles Sanchez,who added two team points in the 145-pound division.
Taos was one of only three teams from New Mexico to take part in the Trinidad meet. The best team finishers of the tournament included Dumas, Texas, which garnered the top spot with 263.5 points. Centauri (La Jara, Colorado) came in second with 181.5 points, followed by Buena Vista, Colorado, who was third with 158 points.
The Robertson High School (Las Vegas) Cardinals were also in attendance and were edged by Taos by a mere half-point – coming in fifth with 124.5 points. Rounding out the top-ten finishers were: Fowler High School, Colorado (94), County Line High School, Colorado, (78), Trinidad High School, Colorado (73), Crowley County High School, Colorado (68.5) and Boys Ranch, Texas (68).
Up next for coach Valencia and his squad is the Robertson Tournament Jan. 26-27, followed by the District Duals, which will also take place at Robertson High School Feb. 1. The District tournament is slated to occur in Tucumcari Feb. 10.