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Najar, Sanchez take gold at Cardinal Classic

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Jeremiah Esparza of Goddard, despite getting cross-faced, completed this takedown and defeated the wrestler from Piedra Vista. (Shane Duran Photo)

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LAS VEGAS – Roswell High senior wrestlers Gabe Najar and Christian Sanchez both took gold in relatively easy fashion at the Cardinal Classic at Roberston High School in Las Vegas, NM. The grueling two-day tourney saw the wrestlers compete five times in pool play on Friday and wrapping up action in bracket play on Saturday.

The Roswell Coyote squad finished in 7th place out of 29 teams in what is annually one of the toughest tourneys in the state. The Coyotes managed to place four total out of the six that qualified for the prestigious gold bracket.

“I had some guys place high and show up,” stated a happy coach Jesse Boggs. “I’m real proud of Mike Garcia who came to wrestle (on Saturday) and winning his bracket. It was real good for Gabe and Christian in terms of trying to peak right before state. As a team, I think we are peaking when we want to be which is what you want to do at a tournament of this caliber.”

Najar (21-2 and the prohibitive favorite to win the district crown at 182) went 5-0 on Friday with five pins and then had similar results on Saturday winning 7-0 in the quarterfinals before pinning Santiago Salas of Los Lunas in :24 seconds in the semifinals and pinning Clayton Demas of Taos in the second period to claim gold.

Sanchez (still undefeated at 29-0 in the 220 weight class) had little trouble in the tourney as he recorded 4 pins and a default on Friday before winning the bracket on Saturday with little trouble. He would record two pins and get an 8-1 drubbing of Meras Madrid in the semi-finals to take first place.

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The other two Coyotes to medal were Eddie Macias at 285 and fellow senior Travis Alarcon at 145. Both placed fourth after finishing with a lone loss in pool action and then surviving some close matches in the bracketed tourney.

Macias would win a grueling 3-2 four overtime affair in the quarterfinals which would propel him into the medal round. The heavyweight grappler would lose a tight 1-0 decision to Isiah Valverde of Tucumcari – who had pinned him on Friday – to get the 4th place medal.

“I’m excited about Eddie because we still have three weeks to get into that (practice) room,” said Boggs. “We can work on some things and I think he will be ready to go. That last match he had against Tucumcari – that kid pinned us twice and he barely won by one this time, so I’m very happy with how he did today.”

Alarcon would score a takedown at the buzzer in the consolation round to advance to the medal round. He would lose a close decision to his Farmington opponent to finish in 4th.

Both Kayden Graham at 138 and Jaymon Cherinko would qualify for the gold bracket after finishing with identical 4-1 records from Friday. The two freshman saw their season records balloon as Cherinko is now 18-12 while Graham is 15-14.

Michael Garcia at 120, Nathaniel Sanchez at 132, and JoeAngel Samora would all shake off a rough opening day to finish with a flourish on Saturday. Garcia would take 2nd in the bronze bracket, while Sanchez would record three straight pins to win the bronze bracket. Samora would reel off three straight wins to take third in the silver bracket.

Goddard Wrestling

The Goddard wrestling squad had a much tougher time then their Coyote counterparts but still brought home a plethora of wins from the huge tourney. The small Rocket contingent would finish in 24th place.

“We actually did pretty good at this tournament,” stated coach Nick Archuleta. “A lot of guys toughed it out. We lost a few to some studs but it was a good awakening for the guys with state coming up. They’ve definitely grown since day one for sure.”

The best finish by a Rocket was by sophomore Michael Luiz at 138 who finished in 5th place, missing out of a medal by one spot. Luiz went 4-1 in the opening day and then recorded pins over Graham and Rod Dunlap of Tucumcari in the gold bracket to claim the fifth place spot. Dunlap had won pool D on Friday.

“Mike did really good especially coming back late,” said Archuleta. “He missed a couple of tournaments but he’s definitely got a lot of potential to place high at state.”

Senior Jeremiah Esparza was the other Rocket to earn a spot in the gold bracket. He finished 4-1 in pool play, but suffered two close losses to wrap up the tourney – including a heart-wrenching decision to Martin Rodriguez of Tierra Encantada who won in overtime after a penalty point was awarded at the buzzer.

Seth Diaz earned three straight wins to take third in the silver bracket and Austin Langley at 152 and Jeremiah Garcia at 152 both earned two wins on Saturday to take 5th place in the silver bracket respectively. “(Seth) had it pretty hard the first day but came back the second day and came out of his shell a little more. If you look back in his history, he’s always is losing his matches by one (point). He just needed take that one more step, and I feel like he did that today.”

Both teams will participate in the District Duals in Alamogordo on Saturday.

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