State wrestling tournament opens at Star Center today

February 23, 2019

Rio Rancho?s Thomas Carrillo, top, will be attempting to win his second straight state title. On top is Rio Grande?s Alejandro Gutierrez.

Rio Rancho, Aztec and Silver are defending state champions as this year’s state wrestling tournaments begin today at the Santa Ana Star Center.

The first two rounds are today, the third and fourth rounds Saturday. The finals are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Here are 10 primo notes/storylines for the weekend:

GIRL POWER: For the second year in a row, there will be a girls exhibition tournament conducted concurrently with the boys. There are 10 weight divisions, with eight girls in each bracket.

Overall participation numbers are on the rise, and the New Mexico Activities Association hopes that soon, the girls will have an official state event.

FAMILY TRADITION, PART I: Cleveland junior Tristan Mascarenas (113 pounds) can become the third in his family to win multiple state titles, following big brothers Paul (four) and Mikey (three). Tristan is seeking his second.

FAMILY TRADITION, PART II: Jose Tapia of Capital was a five-time state champion for the Jaguars; his younger brother Javier, formerly of Capital and now at Pojoaque Valley, is heavily favored to win his fourth title. His only loss this season was a close decision to Carlsbad’s super-tough Justin Wood at the Joe Vivian Classic. (Zeke Marquez of Silver, a senior at 132 pounds in Class 4A, also is seeking his fourth.)

A RAVEN SERGE: Rio Grande’s Sergio Arellano has been tremendous the last two seasons. Class 5A’s 126-pound favorite had an undefeated junior season that culminated in a championship, and he’s got only one loss in 38 matches this season.

A REMATCH OF A REMATCH: One of the really interesting weight divisions in 5A is at 132 pounds. Thomas Carrillo of Rio Rancho (27-10) upset Alejandro Gutierrez of Rio Grande in the state final at this weight a year ago, but Gutierrez (35-1) recently conquered Carrillo in the metro tournament final. (This also is the bracket Santa Fe’s Isaac Beltran, suspended by the NMAA for beating an opponent at the Joe Vivian, might have been in.)

EMMER SQUARED: As Rio Rancho looks to successfully defend its 2018 team championship, brothers Alex and James Emmer are two certain contenders. Alex, a sophomore, has 36 victories, more than anyone else at 120 pounds. James, a senior, is 5A’s winningest wrestler at 138 pounds.

BACK TO BACK: Besides Cleveland’s Mascarenas, Rio Rancho’s Carrillo and Rio Grande’s Arellano, a handful of other 5A wrestlers from the metro area are out to win state for the second consecutive year.

They are: Tim Lopez of Rio Rancho (113); La Cueva’s D.J. McDowell (220, which also features Cleveland’s 26-2 Dion Hunter, the metro champ, and 25-1 Jacob Telles of Sandia) and La Cueva’s C.J. Rodriguez (heavyweight). Wood of Carlsbad (a junior who is 35-1 at 160) was a champ a year ago and is looking to reach his fourth consecutive state final.

ZEROES: Only one wrestler in 5A ? with at least five matches ? is undefeated. Joshua Vega, a senior at Volcano Vista, is 27-0 at 120 pounds. Taos’ Estevan Valerio (24-0 at 182 pounds), Valencia’s Robbie Jaramillo (38-0 at 195 and looking to win state for the second year in a row) and Los Lunas’ Zachary Doyle (18-0 at 220) are unbeaten in Class 4A. There aren’t any undefeated wrestlers in the 3A field; Robertson junior Andrew Trujillo (43-1 at 132 pounds) comes closest as he chases his third straight championship.

RECORDING: From a won-loss standpoint, some of the other 5A wrestlers to watch include: Farmington heavyweight Dante Norberto (40-1), the lone 5A wrestler with 40 match victories; La Cueva’s Barrett Haemker (24-1 at 195 pounds); and Manuel Robles of Volcano Vista (31-1 record at 145).

FANS, BEHAVE: Fans will likely be under close scrutiny this weekend after a near brawl in the stands last February between parents from Belen and St. Pius, which later spilled outside the Star Center. It was the most high-profile postseason example of unruly fans all of last school year.