RIO RANCHO – Five Ruidoso wrestlers went to the Class 4A State tournament here over the weekend, and five made it into day two of competition.
It was beyond what coach Andy Olive had hoped for.
“It exceeded my expectations, and it goes back to what we’ve been doing all year, setting small goals,” Olive said. “I’m really excited.”
All five exceeded their goals for the two-day tournament, but the wrestler that had the best weekend by far was heavyweight freshman Michael Marin, who earned second place after winning three of four matches.
It all started with a pin of Tucumcari’s Isaiah Valverde, the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
The match was a close one, with neither wrestler earning a point until Valverde got an escape in the second round for a 1-0 lead.
He then got a takedown of Marin and actually had the Warrior on his back, but Marin was able to arch out of it and – quick as a flash – threw on a reversal that ended the match with Valverde on his back and a pin to end it.
In fact, that’s almost exactly how Marin won his next two matches against Morgan Thompson of Taos and St. Michael’s Shaun Lave in the semifinal.
“It’s a risky move, but I just bridge, hoping to get them on their backs,” Marin said of his victories. “I came here to make a statement and show who I am.”
“I’m very impressed with how he did. His side of the bracket was just stacked,” Olive said of Marin’s performance. “Valverde had the best record in the bracket and probably should have been the No. 1 seed.”
In the final against Okundaye Babatunde of Robertson, things were close once more, with Okundaye getting a escape in the second round for the 1-point advantage.
But after Marin tied it with an escape of his own, things went into double overtime before Okundaye got Marin to the mat.
Unlike in his previous matches, Marin was unable to bridge out of the hold and Okundaye got three near fall points for an eventual 5-1 victory.
It might have been a disappointing way for the freshman to end his appearance at State, but it’s obvious Marin has established himself as a force.
“I told him to be the dark horse and come in here and shock everybody,” Olive said. “He did that. He’s half cat, half bear. He’s big and fast.”
The tournament got started off with a bang for Ruidoso, as eighth-grader Dyllan Morgan pulled off a huge upset with a pin of Pecos’ Francisco Martinez at 106, a wrestler with a 20-5 record coming in.
“I was really in the right mindset, not worried about who I was going up against,” Morgan said. “I just wen tin there and wrestled as aggressive as I could.”
Morgan and Martinez were tied at 5-all going into the second round when Morgan was able to get a pin with 1:20 left to move on. A quick pin of Chelsea Wheeler in the quarters sent him Morgan to the championship semifinals.
After falling to Alex Holguin of Cobre, Morgan again found himself across the mat from Martinez, only this time it was the Pecos wrestler coming away with the 7-1 decision.
“Dyllan wasn’t moving like we wanted him to move,” Olive said of the rematch. “But I’m sure the Pecos coach went back to the chalkboard and he (Martinez) was able to come out on top.”
138 pounds is always the most competitive in wrestling, simply because of all the athletes in the class. But Conner Jameson proved he belonged in the state tournament from the very beginning, earning a 3-2, triple overtime victory against Emilio Lopez of West Las Vegas in the first round.
The wrestlers were tied at 2-all at the end of regulation, and it wasn’t until Jameson got an escape point with about 20 seconds left in 3OT that he was allowed to move on.
Jameson next fell to top-seeded Jonathan Trujillo in the next round with a quick pin and then fell to Gilbert Garcia of Bernalillo in the consolation round, but his tournament-opening victory made Olive proud.
“Conner is probably one of our most improved wrestlers this year,” Olive said. “I don’t think he was pleased with his performance, but from a coaching standpoint, I’m happy with where he is.”
At 120, Joseph Morales fell to Cauy Ute of Shiprock of the first round, but was able to defeat Pojoaque’s Matthew Martinez in the consolation and saw his time at state end with a pin by Joshua Sandoval of West Las Vegas.
Rudioso’s lone senior, Tobias Spitty, drew a bye in the first round at 170, but then had to meet up with Silver’s Armando Galindo, who took a win by fall just 20 seconds into the match.
Spitty later defeated Westlee Pete of Wingate to get within one match of wrestling for third, but fell Shiprock’s Zephanaiah Hadley in the consolation semifinals.
Overall, it was the best state tournament Ruidoso has had as a team in years, and Olive expects more of the same down the road, given how young his team is.
“What I’ve been trying to do since I’ve got here was get them young,” Olive said. “That way you don’t have this revolving door of kids coming in and leaving all the time. All these kids are committed and are all coming back next year. I’m ready for the next season to start tomorrow.”