May 30—RIO RANCHO — It was a day of disappointment for Santa Fe wrestlers, but also one of lessons learned despite not achieving their goal: state championships.
Santa Fe High placed two Demons in the finals of the Class 5A State Wrestling Championships on Saturday, but came home with a pair of runner-up medalists in the most unlikely fashion. Meanwhile, Capital saw its best chances to produce a pair of state champions stall in the semifinals in heartbreaking fashion.
Santa Fe High teammates Miguel Padilla and Elijah Martinez placed second in their respective weight classes, but their paths were starkly different. Demons coach Lucas Trujillo accepted Padilla’s runner-up medal in his absence at 132 pounds, because his wrestler was at a local hospital after suffering a concussion while defeating Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage Academy’s Santiago Lopez, 5-4, in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Martinez built a 7-2 lead in the second period of the 182 finals against Carlsbad’s Jacob Fuentes, only to see Fuentes battle his way back to take a 9-8 victory. The outcome was all the more frustrating considering Martinez was trying to finish a reverse on Fuentes in the final 10 seconds of the match when the referee called a stalemate with 4 seconds left. Fuentes rode out the final seconds to championship glory.
Fuentes used a pair of takedowns and an escape to tie the match at 7-all early in the third, then another takedown trumped Martinez’s escape with 25 seconds left for the championship margin.
Martinez crumpled to the ground near the scorer’s table as Trujillo consoled him, then he laid on the mat for a couple of minutes before gathering himself and walking away. Trujillo knows the knows the frustration of almost winning a state title. It took until his senior year in 1994 before he walked away with an individual crown, despite a prep career in which he lost just five times in four years.
“We had it there at the end,” Trujillo said. “It’s hard to swallow. It’s hard to swallow. It takes a long time to get over it, and I don’t know if you ever do.”
While the Demons felt the sting of championship defeat, Capital’s top two wrestlers, seniors Andres Alvarado and Julian Sanchez, never got a chance to experience that as they lost in the 5A semifinals. Alvarado fell to Albuquerque La Cueva’s Hunter Haemker, the top seed at 195 pounds, by a 3-1 score as Haemker scored takedown with 2 seconds left in regulation that broke a 1-all tie.
Sanchez, the top seed at 220, made a tactical error in trying to turn Deming’s Anthony Carter on his back in the second period of their semifinal. Carter took advantage by scoring a reverse, then pinning Sanchez at the 57-second mark to advance to the finals.
For Sanchez, it was the fourth straight year he failed to get to the finals, but he recognized an important point learned from his previous three state tournaments — the season wasn’t over yet. Sanchez pinned his way to a third-place medal, which halted a streak of three straight fourth-place finishes. After pinning Farmington’s Victor Borunda halfway through the second period in his final match as a wrestler, Sanchez held a long embrace with Jaguars head coach Marcos Gallegos, then struggled to walk away from his favorite place in the world — the wrestling mat.
“I just didn’t want to leave the mat, man,” Sanchez said. “I’m never gonna wrestle again at the high school. I’m not going to wrestle collegiately, so this was my last time, my last win. We talked about the last five years and he’s been my No. 1 coach. He gave me the opportunity to come out here and wrestle.”
Sanchez joined Capital junior Roman Ulibarri as the program’s first third-place finishers since Gerard Matthews accomplished the feat in 2006.
Ulibarri had a harder road to travel as he won four straight consolation matches at 120 after losing in the quarterfinals. It capped a whirlwind three-week stretch in which he became eligible after transferring from Los Alamos in the final week of the regular season, won the District 5-5A title to qualify for the state meet and then wrestled more matches in one day (six) than he did in his entire Capital career (three).
Ulibarri finished his marathon day with a pin of Los Lunas’ Ernie Gonzales in the third period to take third.
“I talked with my coaches a lot after the loss,” Ulibarri said. “I was pretty hurt, but they said losses only make us stronger and they set fire on our asses. So, I just listened to my coaches and I believed in what they said, and here I am.”
That finishing run will set the tone for Ulibarri, but Sanchez said Martinez’s heartbreaking loss will fuel the Demon for his senior year. If anyone knows what the sting of coming up short in chasing your dreams, it is Sanchez.
“This suck, it does, and it’s going to hurt for a while,” Sanchez said. “But he is going to make a comeback.”