RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Cleveland High senior Gabe Garcia, the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds, clinched the APS Metro Championships wrestling title for his team in the penultimate match of the annual event, this time at La Cueva High School.
It was the fourth time the Storm have been Metro champs over the past five seasons; their City of Vision foe, Rio Rancho won in 2019, the Rams’ third such title.
Garcia’s pin of Atrisco Heritage’s Octavio Peña locked up the team title for CHS (179.5 points), with three other District 1-5A foes right behind them: Atrisco Heritage Academy (168), Volcano Vista (138) and Rio Rancho (137). 1-5A’s Cibola (90.5) was seventh in the 16-team event.
Cleveland had three individual champions on Saturday. Junior Estevan Encinias got the finals started with a victory at 106 pounds; the No. 2 seed recorded a technical fall over Rio Grande’s Sergio Gutierrez, 15-0.
Tyler Gabaldon (120) was involved in the most exciting match among the 14 finals.
The Storm junior was trailing Cibola’s Layne Kohn with about 20 seconds left in the third period when Kohn locked his hands around Gabaldon. That penalty point to Gabaldon sent the match into overtime.
It wasn’t until the fourth overtime, in an ultimate rideout, that Gabaldon eventually prevailed.
At 113, Storm mat fans will notice the absence of Tristan Mascarenas, a two-time state champion. He missed the Metro because of injury, coach Evan Copeland said, and he’d also missed his team’s 1-5A dual on Jan. 29 at Volcano Vista, a 33-30 loss. His replacement at 113 pounds was pinned, and that six-point swing led to the Hawks’ victory.
Copeland said Mascarenas will be back for the state meet, where an individual victory would give his family 10 championships – one more than the nine won by the Ortegas for Rio Rancho High School.
RRHS had two Metro champs: At 126 pounds, Tim Lopez won by injury default when Valley High’s Abran Lujan, the undefeated No. 1 seed, suffered a knee injury in the third period; and Alex Emmer captured the 132-pound bracket, upsetting top-seeded Santiago Lopez of Atrisco Heritage, 4-0. (Emmer was the No. 2 seed).
RRHS also had two Metro runners-up: At 145 pounds, La Cueva’s Zac Dallas pinned RRHS’s Gabriel Keith in 5:49 and Atrisco Heritage’s 152-Jake Vialpando beat the Rams’ Christopher, 9-4.
Volcano Vista defeated the host Rams 36-33 Tuesday evening to claim the District 1-5A wrestling championship. Posting mat wins for the Rams were 120-Robert Cordova, 126-Lopez, 138-Ventura Velasquez, 145-Keith, 170-Xavier Salazar and 285-Riley Butt; the last two Rams wins were by fall. The last 18 district titles had been won by the Rams or Storm.
(James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal contributed to the above story.)