Taos Tiger wrestling team qualifies 11 for state

Watch your step! Taos ventures into rattler country for District 2/5-A/4A meet


The Taos Tiger wrestling team traveled to Tucumcari for the second time this year to wrap up their 2017-18 campaign and challenge other teams in the final district meet Feb. 10.

This was also the chance for varsity grapplers to qualify for the upcoming wrestling championships in Rio Rancho. The Tigers finished second as a team for the second year in a row, and three individuals came away as district champions.

Members of District 2/5-A/4A include the Bernalillo Spartans, Pojoaque Valley Elks, Robertson Cardinals, St. Michael’s Horsemen, Taos Tigers, Tucumcari Rattlers and West Las Vegas Dons.

Taos sent 11 wrestlers to Tucumcari and 11 wrestlers qualified for state, each contributing points to the total team score. The top three teams from last year were the same this year, with the Robertson Cardinals emerging as the district champions with 214.5 points. Behind them was Taos, who placed second with 185 points. Tucumcari was third with 156 points followed by West Las Vegas (115), Pojoaque Valley (103), Bernalillo (97.5) and St. Michael’s (87).

District champs

Individual district champions for Taos included Tyler Valencia (41-8 overall), who earned the title in the 132-pound division and gained 24 team points. Valencia earned a bye in the quarterfinals, pinned Secudino Martinez from Robertson – a mere 1:14 into the match – in the semi-finals, and pinned Kyle Toya from Bernalillo at the 2:36 mark in the title match. Valencia was also the district champion in the 120-pound division in 2016.

Clayton Demas (23-13 overall) garnered a first place medal in the 182-pound class and added 20 team points with a bye in the first round, a win by decision over Javier Mares from Robertson (3-2) and a win by decision over Xavier Garcia (7-2) in the finals. Last year, Demas finished third in the district in the 195-pound division.

Jesse Ayala (21-8) also pumped an additional 20 points to Taos’ total by winning the 220-pound division. Ayala improved by three spots from a year ago when he finished fourth in the same weight class. In this year’s lot, Ayala pinned Michael Garcia from Robertson in the semi-finals and Kaleb Hayes from Tucumcari in the finals.

Points galore

There were four Taos wrestlers who came in second in their respective classes.

Christopher Valencia (25-20 overall) notched a win by decision over Joshua Sandoval from West Las Vegas (6-0) but lost the 120-pound championship match by decision to Andrew Trujillo from Robertson (3-0). For his efforts, Valencia was awarded 16 team points.

Jonathan Garcia (35-12 overall) received a bye in the quarterfinals of the 138-pound class and pinned Rod Dunlap from Tucumcari at the 1:58 mark of his semi-final match. Dominic Smith from St. Michael’s got the better of Garcia and earned a win by decision (3-0) in the finals. Garcia added 18 team points on the day.

Estevan Valerio (38-6) was one of the few Taos Tiger wrestlers who had a full slate of matches (at least three) on his schedule. Valerio pinned Wyile Chavarillo from Bernalillo at 1:08 into the quarterfinals, pinned Eric Buell from West Las Vegas 30 seconds into the semi-final match, and was pinned by Javier Tapia in the finals. His runner-up finish garnered 20 team points for Taos.

Rounding out the second place finishers for the Tigers was Brian Moraga (16-8 overall) who received 18 points for a pin deep into his semi-final match against Dyson Clark from Tucumcari. Moraga, himself was pinned early in the finals by Darian Duran from Robertson.

Notable performances

Coming in as third-place finishers for Taos included Joseph Chacon (10-21 overall) in the 126-pound division and Morgan Thompson (6-2 overall) in the 285-pound class. Both wrestlers had four total matches on the day and hauled in a combined 31 points (14 for Chacon and 17 for Thompson).

Meanwhile, 145-pound Cameron Gonzales (7-9 overall) and 160-pound Alex Totman (20-25 overall) earned a fifth-place finish in their respective bracket, adding 18 team points (seven for Gonzales and 11 for Totman).

Up next for the Tiger wrestling team is the National Guard Wrestling Championships taking place at the Santa Ana Star Center, 3001 Civic Center, Rio Rancho Feb. 16-17. Taos will send all 11 qualifying wrestlers, who finished in the top five of their respective weight class at the district meet. Weigh-ins will be at 7:30 a.m. both days, and wrestling will begin at 9 a.m. each day. Cost to enter the venue is $8 per session (two sessions per day) for adults and $5 for students, seniors and members of the military. Day passes can be purchased for $12.