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Melee erupts at wrestling tourney in Rio Rancho

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Activities Association on Sunday began the process of sifting through the aftermath of one of the ugliest fan incidents ever observed at one of its high school state tournaments.

Meanwhile, the two women at the center of a heated dispute disagreed on who instigated the melee that marred Saturday night’s state wrestling tournaments at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

The mothers of wrestlers Rowdy Robinson of Belen and Diego Pavia of St. Pius began arguing and shouting at each other during the third period of their sons’ Class 5A state championship match at 160 pounds.

When Rowdy Robinson went down to the mat with about 35 seconds left in the match, holding a 3-2 lead, that’s when it got ugly.

“This lady is screaming at me, two arm lengths away, ‘He’s (bleeping) stalling,’ ” Robyn Robinson, Rowdy’s mother, told the Journal on Sunday. “I said, ‘He’s hurt, his knee is hurt.’ She just kept saying that he’s stalling. I’m a momma bear. I lost it and we got into it. (But) it started with her yelling at me. … I think the lady is a bully.”

Antoinette Pavia said Robyn Robinson overreacted.

“I was sitting there in the stands, and I said, ‘He’s stalling!’ ” Pavia said Sunday evening. “Which is typical of a parent to do. She turns around and she says, ‘He’s not (bleeping) stalling.’ I didn’t know it was Rowdy’s mom. She kind of got in my face.”

This exchange escalated quickly and nearly blew up into a full-fledged fight in the stands. Robinson said at one point Pavia tried to throw a couple of punches at her.

Pavia said as the arguing began, someone wearing a maroon Belen shirt – a man – pushed her.

“We were outnumbered by the Belen people,” she said.

There was a good deal of yelling and shouting and pushing, and not confined to just the two women.

A fight broke out between fans in the stands during the state high school wrestling championships Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center. Members of the National Guard helped remove people from the stands. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Security personnel from multiple agencies – even some National Guard members who were there only to participate in handing out medals to wrestlers – climbed into the stands in an attempt to defuse the situation and help escort nearby fans away.

There were multiple fan ejections, including Antoinette Pavia, who said she missed the end of her son’s match, which Rowdy won. Robyn Robinson was not ejected. One angry young fan was observed being carried off the floor by multiple people.

“It’s sad, because this was a great event, highlighting girls wrestling for the first time. It’s sad that parents drew the attention away from the kids,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Robyn Robinson also said that there was a fight between 8 to 10 people outside the Star Center long after fans had left, and that one of Belen’s coaches, Eric Otero, suffered a cut to his head, requiring some staples, during that fight. The Journal could not reach Otero for comment. Messages left for Eagles head coach Lee Chaves were not immediately returned.

“If you thought inside was crazy,” Robyn Robinson said, “outside was even worse.”

A Rio Rancho Police Department spokesman Sunday said that one summons had been issued, but he said he was not aware of any physical arrests that occurred at the Star Center.

This is the second major conflict between fans to have arisen in the metro area in the past several weeks. In late January, students from Cibola and Volcano Vista engaged in a massive fight following a boys basketball game between the rivals. Several students were punished at school, and a second game between the rivals was moved from a Friday night to a Saturday afternoon in an effort to ease tensions.

For the NMAA, this was not its only post-tournament headache. A Valley High wrestler, Abran Lujan, on Saturday threw a couple of punches at Rio Grande’s Eddie Kenton following a consolation bracket match earlier in the day on Saturday, as video from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which was live streaming the event, clearly showed.

Lujan was disqualified from the event. His father, Valley High coach Bart Lujan, was ejected after a postmatch argument with an official following his son’s match – but before the conflict between his son and Kenton occurred.

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