RUIDOSO – It’s really no secret, if you want a championship high school team in any sport, those athletes have to have been trained from a very young age to perform at the highest level.
That’s why there’s not one, but two youth wrestling programs in Ruidoso.
Both teams have names that evoke the area’s past – Braves and Young Guns – and both are working hard to mold Ruidoso High’s future wrestlers.
“We have 32 registered wrestlers right now, with 20-plus going to tournaments every week,” said Pete Baca, one of six coaches for the Braves. “That’s why there’s so many coaches. With the amount of kids that we have, that’s how many coaches we need.”
Baca shares the “head coach” title with Matthew Sanchez, while Dominic Rue, Michael Jimenez, James Ramos and East Padilla help corral the team into winning every week.
There aren’t as many Young Guns – coach Derek Coker says there’s 19 on the roster – but they still enjoy success.
“This last weekend at Moriarty (Jan. 7) was a rough one. We were 25th out of 43 teams,” Coker said. “But that was with just 19 kids. A lot of these teams have more than 100.”
The Braves have more athletes, but have a smaller space in which to practice. They find themselves in a room off the main gym in the Boys and Girls Club of Sierra Blanca, home to the original high school and later Ruidoso Middle School.
In fact, the paint work above the bleachers in the gym still reads “Braves.”
The Young Guns, meanwhile, have their own room in the auxiliary gym down below, in the building that borders W.D. Horton Stadium.
Both squads feature kids ranging in age from 5 to 15, with some of the older kids getting practice time with the RHS team.
Baca said Ruidoso coach Andy Olive is beyond ecstatic that these youth programs are flourishing.
“When we hosted a tournament last year, he was like a kid in the candy store,” Baca said of Olive. “He was excited to see the kids and see what their talent was. He does what he can for us to help get these programs built.”
Baca touched on something that both teams are hoping happens again in the near future – a tournament in Ruidoso.
It’s happened before, and everyone – particularly the teams coming to town – loved it.
“It’s a lot of work and we still need a lot of help,” Baca said. “Teams from Las Cruces, from up north, from everywhere are really pushing us to host. They all want to come here. It’s in the works, we just have to get it established.
Both teams are at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center this weekend for the New Mexico Showdown, a huge national tournament that regularly brings in youth wrestlers from half the country.
“All our kids are doing great,” Coker said. “It’s fun to watch the little kids especially. It’s intense, but fun to see them get after it.”