Local high school wrestlers excel as postseason nears
BELEN — Valencia County High School Wrestling teams appear to be on the rise with the upcoming new regional tournament.
At the Leonard Kirby Invitational, host Belen Eagles clinched the boys’ title in the 10-team field, which featured a doubles format.
The Valencia Jaguars only started with two boys, but coaches are optimistic that VHS has several wrestlers who could qualify for the state championships.
Meanwhile, Los Lunas won the teams title at the Pojoaque Valley Invitational with seven singles champions including Miguel Andrade, who improved to 29-0.
Belen, Valencia and Los Lunas are halfway through the so-called “district duals” after each facing several district rivals last week and completing the district competition against the remaining teams on Wednesday.
While district champions are crowned, results no longer qualify wrestlers for the state meeting. Regionals will determine the contestants who advance to the A and B State Championships February 17-18 in Rio Rancho.
“It will be a difficult region. We have Silver, Cobre and Deming,” Belen coach Nick Sanchez said of several top teams in the region. “Right now we’re trying to stay healthy, praying and still working as hard as we can.”
Sanchez believes the Eagles can handle the pressure.
“They have a hard time not feeling the pressure when they see these (state championship banners) on the wall every time they come to the gym.”
Even if the Valencia boys lack the strength of the team as a whole, coach Emanuel Aragon is satisfied with the course of the season.
“Valencia is developing better than expected,” said Aragon.
The Jaguars gave up some points on losses, but “our kids can go head-to-head with their opponents” and often win.
Aragon believes Elijah Duran has a good chance of reaching the heavyweight state final while newcomer Yovan Suarez could surprise at 107 pounds.
Aragon also believes the girls team has the talent to finish in the top three at the regional championships.
Undefeated in district competition, the LLHS boys head into the three-game finals Wednesday at the LLHS gym. (After Newsletter Meeting.)
“I’m really happy with where we’re at with the kids right now,” said LLHS coach Steve Chavez, who added that he needs multiple wrestlers to level up.
His focus is currently on the regional tournament.
“We need to get as many wrestlers to the dance (state tournament) as we can,” Chavez said. “After that, anything can happen.”
The girls’ regional tournament for LLHS, VHS and BHS will be held at Del Norte High School on Friday, with the top wrestlers progressing to a combined state tournament.
There are two classes for boys this season. Los Lunas is in 5A with 26 other schools. The regional tournament will be held in Las Cruces on Saturday, February 11th.
Belen and Valencia compete in 4A with a total of 38 schools. The regional tournament for both will be held in Socorro from Friday to Saturday, February 10th to 11th.
Mike Powers has spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports presenter, primarily in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports including the prep scene of the Region of Valencia.