Estevan Valerio took first place in the 182-pound weight class.
The Taos Tigers have been quietly inching their way up tournament placement lists this season. After a very long football season, the wrestling team didn't have a full roster until after the first meet they were scheduled to attend.
Now they're making up for the lost time.
For people without a background in wrestling, the whole operation of how two people grappling results in one of them winning - and how these individual contests combine to a team score - might seem mysterious. In this and a follow-up article, we'll briefly outline what wrestling meets are like (this article) and how they're scored (a subsequent article).
First, there were numerous notable Tiger performances at the Al Salazar Invitational at St. Michael's High School Saturday, Jan. 5.
Estevan Valerio took first place in the 182-pound weight class. After a bye in the first round, he beat Lewis Harvey of Los Alamos by fall and Alejandro Talamantes of St. Michael's by decision in the semifinal round. In the final round, he beat Dylan Irish of Los Alamos by major decision.
Winning second place were Tyler Valencia in the 138-pound class, Clayton Demas in the 195-pound class, and Dominic Lopez in the 285-pound class. Thomas Clarkson (113 pound), Christopher Valencia (126 pound) and Jessie Alaya (220 pound) each earned third place in their weight classes.
The Taos Tigers netted a total of 139 points behind only Cleveland and Santa Fe high schools.
What is it like to be at a wrestling meet?
Pictures give the impression that wrestlers are locked in static poses. Though they do occasionally freeze in one place, there is always a sense of movement. The stillness of a wrestler is akin to that of a coiled snake; if you blink, you might miss the strike that will likely take both wrestlers to the ground.
The two bodies shake the floor of the gym when they fall, so wrestling meets are punctuated by the boom of between approximately 212 and 570 pounds crashing into the mats that cover the hardwood floor - but there's no body-slamming allowed. This isn't WWF.
Wrestlers are cool cucumbers
The wrestlers themselves are composed, focused and don't make a peep. The only reason for a wrestler to make any noise during a competition is if they want the competition to stop (and the appropriate points to be awarded to their opponent) due to an injury. Thus, although the fans and coaches are screaming, you can't usually even hear the wrestlers breathe.
Tyler Valencia beat Abran Mendiola of Santa Fe, an athlete he had never encountered before, by fall in the semifinal round. Before his bout with Irven Delatorre of Cobre, who Valencia beat in the state finals last year, we asked Valencia how he prepared differently for matches against wrestlers he'd met before.
"It's the same," he replied. "You never know how they're going to be that day."
The packed gym shakes
There wasn't much room to spare in the gymnasium of St. Michael's High School in Santa Fe. In addition to the wrestlers, coaches and managers, there were parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends.
Most supporters of a given team sit near one another, creating a patchwork of colors in the stands.
The warm air oozes adrenaline
With all those bodies crammed into one space, it's no surprise that wrestling meets tend to be warm. The wrestlers themselves comprise the most relaxed attendants.
Valeria Rosales, mother of Valencia, has been traveling to every meet for his whole life - for many of the early years as his coach. "You'll hear my voice every time," she said, referring to the shouts of encouragement and direction she gives from the stands. "Mine and Coach's."
To understand what those voices are saying, it's helpful to know the basics of the rules of wrestling, which The Taos News will briefly explain in our next report on wrestling.
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