RUIDOSO – In the past few years – for a variety of reasons – things at the Sierra Blanca wrestling invitational had been going slightly downhill.
Between declining numbers and cancellations due to weather, the tournament just wasn’t the same as it had been. This year, things were very different.
Eleven teams made the trek of the mountain, despite the snow, on Jan. 7, and provided wrestling fans with some quality competition.
As far as Ruidoso’s team record was concerned, it wasn’t exactly stellar. The Warriors scored only 47 points and finished ninth overall, but their 20-24 individual records among scoring wrestlers made Ruidoso coach Andy Olive happy.
“We started the year not making goals that we can’t meet,” Olive said. “We have to accomplish the small ones first before we can make more goals.”
Those 20 wins naturally led to a few finals appearances, with Jorge Medina falling in the third-place match at 145, while Michael Marin finished second in the heavyweight division.
Marin’s accomplishment, in particular, was impressive.
He began the day with a narrow 3-2 decision over Benito Hernandez, a junior that came into the tournament at 14-2 on the season, while Marin was seeded last.
Marin had to nurse that 3-2 lead for the final minute-and-a-half, constantly in danger of getting called for stalling and seeing a point awarded to Hernandez.
After that, Marin followed up with a victory over Centennial’s Isaac Ceniceres to get to the championship match.
Not bad for a freshman.
“The coaches have taught us everything, and it’s really about heart,” Marin said. “We’re a young team, starting out new, and all of these were great wrestlers and tough matches. It was a great learning opportunity.”
In the championship match against Onate’s Emilio Valdez, Marin had a 5-2 lead in the third period, but Valdez was able to get escapes and reversals to score seven points and claim a 9-5 victory.
Still, Marin had a good day, and he knows he can do better the next time he takes the mat at the Pecos Invitational next week.
“I came out to do what my coaches taught me to do, and that’s wrestle,” Marin said.
Ruidoso’s lone senior, Tobias Spitty, rebounded from a 15-8 loss to Kirby Woods of El Paso Hanks in the first round to make it to the 170 consolation semifinals. He shut out Centennial’s Israel Garcia 8-0 before taking on Las Cruces’ Adrian Carreon.
Carreon led the entire match, but led Spitty get within two points before getting a reversal to secure a 9-5 victory and keep Spitty from the third place match.
Olive said one goal was to get at least one win from every point-scoring wrestler on the day, which is just what happened.
“What I’m seeing this year is that we’re not losing out. We’re not quitting, we’re not getting pinned,” Olive said. “We’re starting to win and starting to work our way into the back brackets. It’s about the kids committing and staying together. It’s starting to pay off.”