In only Nick Archuleta’s third season in replacing legendary wrestling coach, Jamie Martinez, Archuleta has learned on the job fast. Fast enough that he has taken seven wrestlers to state his first season, four last season and six this year.
After a six-year apprenticeship under Martinez, the one thing Archuleta has been comfortable doing is talking to his mentor when the need arises. Archuleta has kept Martinez’s high moral standards when it comes to training his wrestlers in the wrestling room.
“It’s nice enough to have him as a mentor,” Archuleta said. “We talk and he is always coach, he gives me advice and I appreciate it. The best thing I ever did was keep his (Martinez) high standards.”
Those details might not have shown up when he first took over the program, but he is starting to put his imprint on the team. Last year was a growing experience when he had to use two eighth-graders in Aiden Werts and Devin Spicer-Lucero.
Spicer-Lucero is the team’s only returning wrestler that made it to state last year. Archuleta has moved his concentration the first couple of seasons from conditioning to more technique and strategy. He also toughened up practice and was more determined to toughen his team up. Archuleta wanted his wrestlers to know the dedication it took to wrestle three rounds for six minutes and still have the desire to win.
“The first two years I focused more on conditioning,” Archuleta said. “This year it is more about technique. I walk a balancing act between conditioning and technique. I went overboard on conditioning my first two years and realized my wrestlers need technique as much as they did conditioning.”
Archuleta and his coaches decided they would be in every drill and wrestle with their team. The coaches pushed their wrestlers and themselves and would need to as they would have to compete against district opponents St. Pius X, Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia. Goddard started the season with 35 wrestlers and only 15 remain on the team.
Making it to state for Goddard is Julio Flores. One of the most important things about Flores is that he was able to wrestle this year without getting injured. The junior will wrestle at 195 pounds. According to Archuleta, Flores has been more aggressive this year and has a better technique. He has stayed healthy.
Flores also runs cross country and feels that it helps him with his conditioning. He has worked on being aggressive this year and shoots more.
“I’m here to place,” Flores said, “and wrestle hard. Nick has been like a father figure to me. I don’t look at brackets, I don’t want anything to get into my head.”
“For Flores to win at state,” Archuleta said, “he will have to stay focused and be aggressive. He can’t put himself in any bad positions.”
Brayden Searle is wrestling at 126 pounds as a freshman. Searle moved here from Wyoming and wrestled in youth there. This is his first season on the team. He has improved in his speed and endurance as the season has gone on. He got into the state as a wildcard, because his record was so good.
“I can’t use all of my energy,” Searle said. “I have to push myself all three rounds and not let up.
“He can push himself throughout all three rounds,” Archuleta said. “He has to maintain his aggression and keep the pressure on his opponent and not to let up.”
He has to make sure he doesn’t empty his tank early. He has to keep attacking.
Pablo Zaragoza is a sophomore and will wrestle at 182 pounds. According to coach Archuleta, Zaragoza has stepped up to varsity well at only 160 pounds and will wrestle kids 20 pounds heavier than him. He cannot let himself get in any bad positions.
“I’m kind of nervous and excited at the same time,” Zaragoza said. “I have to be smart and I have to take care of business.”
“He’s a determined kid,” Archuleta said. “Works hard in practice. He’s two classes ahead of him and weighs 160 pounds. For him to win, he cannot get stuck underneath a guy that outweighs him by 20 pounds.”
Aidan Werts will wrestle in the 170 pounds division. Last year, Werts wrestled as an eighth-grader. This is his second year in the program. Archuleta says the biggest difference in him this year has been his maturity. He is the team captain. As an eighth-grader, Werts would psych himself out when he would see a wrestler bigger than him or older. This year he has changed his mental outlook to believe he can win.
“I’m excited this year,” Werts said. “Last year, I lost in district and had nothing. This year, I focused on being aggressive and hesitating less in my matches. I won a lot more matches. Last year I was scared and lost the match in my mind before I wrestled. I didn’t think I could do much against them because they were bigger than me.”
Coach Archuleta feels that Werts has gotten stronger and his technique and conditioning have improved. He doesn’t hesitate on his takedowns and when he is on the bottom or when he’s on top.
“I started believing more and actually trying,” Werts said. “I try to set a positive example and if a team is bigger than us, not to back down. I’m gonna tell my team to fight their hardest and try their best.”
“He has to keep fighting,” Archuleta said, “to have a chance to win. He has to stay consistent and smart and fight from every position he is in.”
Devin Spicer-Lucero at 285 pounds wrestled as an eighth-grader last year. He is the only returning wrestler to make it to state last year.
Archuleta feels like Devin (Spicer-Lucero) has been a force since his eighth-grade year. Spicer-Lucero keeps a straight face and controls the match at his pace even if it is against a senior. He’s been calm and keeps his thoughts in control. He gets a lot of wins that he shouldn’t get. No matter what position Spicer-Lucero finds himself in, he keeps his cool.
“I don’t get emotional,” Spicer-Lucero said, “I wrestle like it’s another chore.”
“He has to wrestle like he has been in order to win,” Archuleta said. “He can’t get put in a bad position, and he must adjust more than anything.”
The biggest surprise has been sophomore Citlalli Palma, who wrestles at 120 pounds in the girls’ division. She has come out of nowhere. Palma is a hidden gem. Coach Chris Deck spotted her in his weightlifting class and told her she should go out for wrestling.
“The first thing I noticed about her was she was very strong and fast,” Goddard track coach Chris Deck said. “She could power clean more than any of the boys in my weightlifting class. She is extremely competitive. Both of her brothers are great athletes, as well. She is a phenomenal athlete.”
Palma is a naturally strong athlete who competes in the Roswell CrossFit. She has been doing it for the last five years.
“I like the intensity of CrossFit,” Palma said. “I do CrossFit competitions, it’s good for my general health. It has helped me with wrestling, as well.”
Archuleta is excited because the New Mexico Activities Association has sanctioned wrestling for girls this season. Palma has wrestled both girls and boys this season. She feels like wrestling girls, they are more feisty and it is a slower pace. The guys are more of a strategy and she has to think about how to get them down.
“I shoot a lot,” Palma said. “My move is a high crotch or a fireman. It shows how strong you are. It’s a cool move.”
Palma finished second in district. According to Archuleta, the team has been working the last two weeks on getting Palma in shape to win state.
“She has to be aggressive in order to win state,” Archuleta. “She has to be an attacker in her matches. Chances are she could face the girl from Socorro to win state.”
Archuleta feels like Aiden and Zaragoza will have the toughest time at state. Zaragoza is giving away more than 20 more pounds in weight to his opponents.
“I will tell my team,” Archuleta said, “‘Leave nothing on the mat. Don’t come off the mat thinking you could have done more.’”
RHS sends eight wrestlers to state
By Tom A. Ruiz
Special to RDR Sports
When the Roswell High wrestling team hits the mats for the State Wrestling Tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho this morning, eight Coyotes will be competing.
Those eight include Jaymon Cherinko at 120 pounds, Kevin Alarcon at 132 pounds, and Kayden Graham at 152 pounds.
Joining them will be Nathaniel Sanchez at 160 pounds, Miguel Cabrales at 170 pounds, Canaan Peralta at 182 pounds, Zack Buckmister at 220 pounds, and Gabe Garcia at 285 pounds. These wrestlers qualified at last week’s district meet and are hoping to bring gold medals back to Roswell.
Roswell wrestling coach Jesse Boggs says losing at the Los Alamos meet earlier in the season was the turning point for his squad.
“Los Alamos was not better than us. It was us not being able to wrestle to our ability and potential,” Boggs said.
“I believe it changed our focus and our drive in that regard,” said Boggs. “After that, we were able to compete against very good teams and felt like we were in competition to win.”
Now the rewards of their commitment have the Coyotes in serious contention for gold. The team learned of their opponents on Monday and the wrestlers have been breaking down the weaknesses and strengths of their opponents.
“By the time our guys step onto the mat, they should have wrestled that opponent a dozen times in their heads. They (wrestler) will try to alleviate the pressure and anxiety that naturally comes with being the first match in the state tournament. The more we can get the kids to visualize how that match is going to go, the calmer they will be,” said Boggs.
While Roswell will go after a state team title, individual honors also are up for grabs. Coach Boggs explains how he separates the two.
“It’s like any other sport — preparation is the key. Some guys get really hyped, others are really loose and the kids talk to each other, they encourage each other,” said Boggs.
Boggs reports that 95% of his wrestling team is made up of some of Roswell’s varsity football team that claimed its second consecutive football title this past season — a feat that was last accomplished by the Goddard Rockets, who won the 2008 and 2009 state titles.
Both schools have traditionally produced excellent wrestling programs. This year, Roswell High had a very young team. “I am not surprised by their development, and their hard work has paid off,” said Boggs.
The Coyotes will go up against traditional powers Volcano Vista, Cleveland High, Piedra Vista, La Cueva and others.
The State Wrestling Tournament begins today at 6:30 a.m. at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.