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Najar, Sanchez take state wrestling titles

Gabe Najar secures the fall in the state championship match. (Paul Lessard Photo)

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RIO RANCHO — Senior Roswell High wrestlers Gabriel Najar and Christian Sanchez culminated a year of hard work and effort with stellar results at the NMAA state wrestling championships at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Both wrestlers earned the coveted state championship with dominant performances in the finals.

Christian Sanchez signals to the crowd at the Santa Ana Star Center that he has just won his second state title. (Paul Lessard Photo)

The Roswell High team finished in seventh place with 110 points while placing four in the top six. Aztec nipped Los Lunas for the team title with 194.5 points.

“We didn’t do bad at all,” explained a happy coach Jesse Boggs. “I thought we did great and I’m looking forward to these guys being able to celebrate with family and friends back home. I’m proud of us. It was a tough year for us but we still wrestled well.”

Sanchez finished the year 38-0 following a physical 6-0 win in the finals with Michael DeHerrera of Bloomfield. Sanchez withstood two illegal blows to the head while recording two takedowns to gain the victory and become the first two-time state champ form Roswell High since Chris Esparza.

“I went in just thinking and a perfect match,” said Sanchez. “Just imagine them before they happen that they turn out in my favor and just thankful (that it happened.”

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He continued, “there are a lot of ups and downs with it (winning a state title). But, in the end, there is a big payout.”

Sanchez, who had pinned DeHerrera last year in the semi-finals, advance to the title match with a pin over Nathaniel Holloway of Academy in the semi’s earlier in the day.

“It’s been a long time (for a two-time state champ and an undefeated RHS wrestler),” said Boggs. “That’s a small group — he gets to join a privileged group. He’s a model 220. If you could have kids like him every year, you would never be disappointed.”

Najar earned the state title with a pin over district foe Devin Brown Alamogordo in 3:43. Najar got an early takedown in the second period which took Brown directly to his back which stretched a close 2-1 match into a 7-1 match. Najar then secured a cradle and got the fall sending the senior grappler into an emotional celebration which carried over to his coaches, teammates and family.

“I just shot that low John Smith and it just kind of came out that way,” is how Najar described the move that opened up the match. “I don’t really remember how it went down, I just remember getting on top and having his arms secured and making his arm was staying down and his head stayed down as well.”

Najar explained the extreme effort it takes to win a state title, especially after coming up short his sophomore and junior seasons. “It just wasn’t good enough until I had first place. Before and after every practice I had (an additional) hour practice. I kept working hard and I just kept thinking third and second and it wasn’t satisfying at all. I just had to get first and that’s what came out today.”

Najar had defeated Santiago Salas of Los Lunas earlier in the semi-ad an hour practice -finals with a quick first period fall to advance to the title match.”

“It’s always great when you have a common opponent,” said Boggs of his match with Brown. “Every time he wrestled him, it got harder and harder…but to stick him again was just fantastic. It shows his dedication.”

Fellow senior Travis Alarcon fell just short of a state title as he lost a heart-breaking 7-6 decision to top-seeded Traedan Allison of Farmington in the finals at 145 lbs. Alarcon led for the majority of the match, but a late takedown and 2-point near fall gave the match to the Scorpion wrestler.

Alarcon dominated Orlando Apodaca of Del Norte 9-1 to advance to the finals.

Also placing for the Coyotes was unseeded Eddie Macias at heavyweight. Macias had lost to the top-seeded wrestler from Farmington in Friday’s quarterfinals in triple overtime and promptly wrestled the 3rd, 4th, and 6th-seeded wrestlers on Saturday. Macias dominated Jyden Dodge of Kirtland Central to advance to the medal round where he fell in overtime to Isaac Acosta and then pinned Milo Light of Los Alamos to claim 5th place.

The Goddard Rockets saw one grappler medal as senior Jeremiah Esparza managed a solid 6th place in a very tough 160 lb division. Esparza pinned Jovanie Guzman of Capital to advance to the medal rounds before falling to 4th-seeded Hunter Medina of Aztec in a wild 14-11 decision. Esparza managed to get three third period takedowns, but could not get the final turn in the loss.

Esparza wrapped up the tourney with an 11-4 loss to Gavin Blair of Farmington — the wrestler he bested in the opening round.

The Rockets’ other grappler to wrestle on the second day — Jeremiah Garcia — saw his Cinderella run end when he lost to Sebastian Martin of Academy.

The Rockets finished in 18th place with 17 points.

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