By George Morse
Espanola Valley High School junior Devin Atencio was finally back where he belonged. Atencio was at the New Mexico State Wrestling Championships at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho wrestling for the Class 4A 106-pound weight class state championship. He’d been here before.
Atencio, then wrestling for Los Alamos High School his freshman year, had won the 2018 Class 5A 106-pound state wrestling championship. He had transferred to Espanola Valley his sophomore year. Under New Mexico Activities Association transfer rules, Atencio could not compete his sophomore year in wrestling.
Atencio returned to wrestling competition this season. His skills quickly returned. He compiled a record of 28-2 during the season wrestling at 106 pounds. Atencio won the District 2-4A championship in his weight class. He was headed back to the state wrestling championships.
In his opening match Feb. 21 in the 106-pound Class 4A weight class at the state championships, Atencio defeated Jon Valdez of Moriarty High School in a technical fall by a 16-0 score. A technical fall is declared when one wrestler outpoints his opponent by 15 or more points.
In the quarterfinals, Atencio had a tougher match against Isaiah Baca of Los Lunas High School. The match went the distance of all three time periods. Atencio won with a 9-3 decision to advance to the semifinals Feb. 22 at the Star Center.
Atencio’s match in the semifinals turned out to be a rugged battle against Miyamura High School’s Rhys Sellers. Sellers had beaten Atencio during the regular season. The match was close through all three periods with Atencio claiming a razor-thin 8-7 victory.
“It was a tough match for him,” Espanola Coach Aaron Salinas said.
Atencio advanced to the championship match against Aztec High School eighth-grader Bryson Valdez. Although just an eighth-grader, Valdez was undefeated during the season.
Valdez would remain undefeated and win the Class 4A state championship that Atencio had hoped to regain. Valdez pinned Atencio at 3:18 of the second period.
“He’s (Valdez) a very, very good wrestler,” Coach Salinas said. “It was 1-0 after the first period. Valdez made a matador move where you extend one arm. He got Devin on his back and pinned him.”
The loss did not deter Atencio and now the Espanola wrestler has another goal in addition to a second state championship.
“Devin told me that whatever weight Valdez wrestles at, that’s the weight he wants to wrestle at,” Coach Salinas said. “His goal is to beat him (Valdez). Devin showed a lot of class. I’m proud of him, as I am of all the guys.”
In other action at state involving other local wrestlers, the results were:
At 113 pounds, Espanola’s Landon Atencio lost in the opening round. He defeated Ruidoso’s Michael Chavez 10-8 in a suuden victory match in the consolation round. He lost to Los Alamos’ Ben Gellis in his final match
At 120 pounds, Espanola’s Gabriel Manzanares did not make weight.
At 126 pounds, Espanola’s Toure Tsosie lost both his matches
At 132 pounds, Pojoaque Valley’s Javin Lujan lost in the opening round. He pinned Espanola’s Kyle Coffeen in the consolation round. He was pinned by Silver High School’s Daniel Jacquez in his final match.
Espanola’s Kyle Coffeen lost both his matches.
At 138 pounds Espanola’s Simon Montoya lost both his matches.
At 145 pounds, Pojoaque Valley High School’s Adryan Triana lost his opening round match. He pinned Bloomfield’s J Gutierrez in the consolation round. He lost his final match to Jesus Tafoya of Silver High School.
Martin Martinez of Espanola lost in the opening round. He defeated Los Alamos’ Joseph Archuleta in a 5-3 decision in the consolation round. He was defeated by Belen’s Brian Silva in his final match.
At 152 pounds, Espanola’s Nicko Pacheco lost both his matches.
At 195 pounds, Espanola’s Aaron Altamirano pinned Del Norte’s Estevan Sierra in the opening round to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, he was defeated by Grants’ Makaio Espinoza in a 9-6 decision. In the consolation round, he pinned Taos’ Jerome Martinez. Altamirano lost his last match to Moriarty’s Asaiah Kamplain.
At 220 pounds. Jacob Martinez of Espanola lost in the opening round. He pinned Ruidoso’s Julius Espinosa in the consolation round. Martinez pinned Taos’ Jerome Martinez in his next match. He lost to Moriarty’s Milo Trujillo in his final match.
In the heavyweight class, Espanola’s Adrian Padilla lost in the opening round. He pinned Valencia’s Zak Aragon in the consolation round. He lost to Kirtland Central’s Leighthan Jensen in his final match.
“A lot of them had never been to state before,” Coach Salinas said. Now they know what it takes to get here. Hopefully, next year they will look at it as just another tournament and not get the jitters.”