Panthers wrestlers compete in toughest tournament of the season
by David Tesitor
RIO RANCHO (NM) – The John Mall Panthers traveled south to compete in their most challenging wrestling tournament of the season as they faced competitors from four states in the Conflict in Cleveland.
The Conflict is traditionally on of the biggest tournaments in New Mexico. Schools from Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all battled to see who is the best. In the end, the best came from Alamosa who captured the tournament with 271 points. Alamosa placed 13 wrestlers including two champions and four second place finishers. Many of the schools from Texas compete at the 6A level with at least 3000 students in the school. The John Mall Panthers held their own, winning several matches and amassing 67.5 points to finish 12th in a field of 18.
Wesley ‘AJ’ VanMatre, the highest placer for John Mall, finished second at 132 pounds. VanMatre, who has an 8-1 record and is ranked first in the state in 2A, met his toughest opponent of his high school career in the championship match with James McClain (24-0) from El Paso Franklin High (TX). McClain is the #1 ranked wrestler at 132 pounds in the Texas 6A classification and is a two-time state champion and a one-time National Champion. Van Matre also had a tough semi-final match, winning a 9-8 decision over Jeremy Acevedo of El Paso Coronado HS who holds a record of 20-7 and is currently ranked fifth in the Texas, also in 6A. In the championship match, McClain pinned VanMatre in 1:27. VanMatre told the WJ that McClain was the toughest opponent he has faced.
The second placer was Trystan Estrada at 152 pounds. Estrada (16-6) placed 6th and scored 13.00 team points. In the first round, Estrada won by fall over Nancy Rodriguez (10-13 from Miyamura) in a time of 1:44. He lost his quarterfinal round to Enrique Godina (15-6) from Cleveland High (NM) by fall in 1:09. Estrada kept his placement hopes alive with two consolation round wins; the first by fall over Anthony Delgado (8-7) El Paso Pebble Hills (TX) in 2:00 and his third pin of the day over Brenden Arizmendiz (6-7) Rio Rancho (NM) in 4:30. Cirrail Allison (14-1) Farmington (NM) won by a 7-4 decision in the consolation semi-final and, for fifth place, Bobby Sanchez (El Paso Eastwood) 21-9 won by decision 7-2.
Other Panthers who competed included Dale “DJ” VanMatre (9-12) who went 3-2 on the day including two pins. He was one match away from placing. At 113 pounds, Travis Vialpando (10-9) won his first match over Justin Rodriguez (9-4) of El Paso Pebble Hills (TX) in a major decision before falling in his next two matches.
Zander Ross (2-12) at 120 pounds went 0-2 as did Ricardo Bobian (120#)(2-8). Miguel Sanchez at 126 pounds, went 1-2. His only win came off a pin over Selvi Gallegos (2-6) Sandia (NM) in 30 seconds. AJ Sandoval, also at 126, finished the day at 0-2.
At 138 pounds, Anthony Aldretti (14-6) won his first two matches by pin fall. The first victory came over Jordan Mattila (12-7) Grants (NM) in a time of 3:00 and the second over Jayden Brown (8-7) Sandia (NM) in 4:00. Aldretti then lost his next two matches, eliminating him from competition.
Johnny D`Ambrosia (1-10) at 145 went 0-2. At 160 pounds, Nick Griego (10-10) went 2-2 and was one round from placing when he lost a 8-2 decision to Cole Keene (14-9) Cleveland (NM). The final competitor was Dylan Crump, heavyweight who went 1-2 on the day.
According to Coach Josh Vialpando concerning the team’s performance, “It was a good tournament and great experience for our young team. They all wrestled very competitively and continue to grow week to week. It’s starting to get exciting as we approach the midpoint of the season.”
The Panthers will be in Alamosa Saturday for another chance to avenge their losses in Rio Rancho.