RIO RANCHO — On the wrestling mat, Del Norte senior Estevan Sierra completed the ultimate rags-to-riches story in Friday’s 3A and 4A state wrestling championships at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
Sierra captured his school’s lone 4A individual championship, and his story is a template example of perseverance.
Sierra was one of five area athletes to claim 4A state titles.
Belen went 3-for-3 in state finals matches as Diego Avila, Damien Wood and Ely Gutierrez secured wins, while Asaiah Kamplain gave Moriarty an individual title as well.
Aztec again reigned in the 4A team ranks, racking up 238 points to win its fourth straight 4A title. Bloomfield and Silver shared second place with 203 points, and Belen was a distant fourth scoring 155.
In the 3A tournament, defending champion Cobre was unseated as West Las Vegas secured the top spot with 189 points and Socorro accumulated 180 for second.
Sierra’s ascendance to the top of the state’s 182-pound division was anything but destiny. He didn’t win a match his freshman year, was a .500 wrestler as a sophomore, and placed fifth in last year’s tournament.
“I wanted to quit. Every day I hated it,” Sierra said of his freshman year. “I just listened to my coaches, and trusted the process.”
Sierra and opponent Mason Lockett of Silver were locked in a 2-2 tie with the third-period clock winding down. Sierra found the right moment to complete his only takedown of the match, earning the decisive two points with 10 seconds left to claim a 4-2 win.
“I didn’t imagine this at all,” Sierra said. “I was 30 pounds heavier (as a freshman), I was out of shape, and I didn’t want to work hard. But if you put your mind to it, anything is possible.”
Kamplain, wrestling for a second straight title, was facing a familiar opponent in the 195-pound matchup. Battling Los Alamos’ Teke Nieto, Kamplain won by a 3-2 decision, his third close win over Nieto in as many tries.
“I took a lot of his shots last week, so I was expecting that from him,” Kamplain said. “The only thing I wasn’t expecting was the head butt.”
Kamplain completed the match’s only takedown in the second period, and an early third-period escape gave him the margin of victory.
For Damien Wood, he’s fine with whatever seed tournament pundits give him. A returning state champion, Wood, the No. 2 seed, captured the 145-pound state title by pinning top seed Landon Sandoval of Silver in 3:45.
Sandoval had the early advantage securing a first-period takedown, but Wood adjusted quickly and seized his moment with a takedown-back points-pin combination to end the match.
“Honestly, I don’t think the seed matters,” Wood said. “It shouldn’t matter to anyone — it’s just a number.”
Gutierrez’s rise to a state championship came quickly. The junior didn’t even make the varsity squad until his sophomore season, but dedicated offseason work catalyzed his championship run.
Gutierrez pushed the pace early in his 160-pound finals matchup with Bloomfield’s Diego Snell-Martinez. That early aggression led to a pin in 1:48.
“He’s really strong, I just caught him,” Gutierrez said of his title.
Avila’s win came in what may have been the marquee 4A matchup. A returning state champion, Avila was pitted against one-time state champion and four-time state finalist Brendon Olsen of Silver in the 132-pound final.
After two scoreless periods, both wrestlers completed early third-period takedowns, but Avila combined his with back points and added another takedown en route to the 10-3 win.
This one feels better than the first one because I beat a four-time finalist,” Avila said.
Elsewhere Miyamura’s Rhys Sellers (120) and Bloomfield’s Adan Benavidez (126) completed perfect seasons at 41-0 and 46-0 with decisive finals victories.