ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For years – decades really – it was impossible to talk about West Mesa High School wrestling without talking about Lenny Lovato.
But their long marriage ended this week.
Lovato, who led the Mustangs to four state championships and coached over 40 individual state champs, retired earlier this week. “It’s time for me. I’ve had my run,” Lovato, 53, said on Friday. “It just wasn’t in my heart to go back this year, and I told myself that if I couldn’t give 100 percent, I wouldn’t do it anymore.”
Lovato took over West Mesa’s program in the 1986-87 season.
The Mustangs, until just the last few years, were almost always in contention for a blue trophy, and West Mesa captured state titles in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1999.
“It was (a tough decision) at first, but the more I thought about it, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Lovato said. “I grew up in this community, I’ve always been a part of this community, even though I had job offers from other schools, offers that anyone would jump on.
“I’ve always been loyal to the West Mesa community, and always wanted to help the kids out in this community.”
Lovato is a 1978 West Mesa graduate. He was born and raised here, and grew up on the West Side.
Two years ago, Lovato opened Lovato Total Fitness at 6500 Hanover NW, about two blocks north of West Mesa.
Lovato has MMA interests and also has kids clubs for wrestling, boxing and jujitsu.
Lovato said one of the reasons for his retirement is the nature of wrestling athletes.
“The style of coaching has certainly changed,” he said, “and throughout these many years, I’ve always been able to adapt to the kids. I have just recently felt that I’m not really adapting to the type of kid that’s coming in to West Mesa anymore. That’s one of the reasons why I felt like it’s time to give somebody else a chance.”
West Mesa athletic director Shonn Schroer has advertised the position and wants to get someone hired in the next few weeks.
“I love wrestling,” Lovato said. “Wrestling has been great to me.”
Lovato retired his teaching position after the 2012-13 school year.