The Tucumcari High School wrestling team ended the season with a state champion, five state placers and a fourth-place finish overall.
Out of a dozen Rattlers who qualified, six placed and junior Augustine Sandoval won the Class A-AAA state championship in the 145 pound weight class.
“This has been the most stress-free season I have had as a coach,” said Rattlers head coach Eddie Encinias. “To even place in the top four at state puts these guys in an elite group of athletes.”
Encinias expected leadership would come from seniors Chris Apodaca and Esteban Martinez, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“They really stepped up as captains of their team; we will be losing great leadership.” Encinias said.
“Last year I placed fourth,” Apodaca said. “This year I improved to third place at state.”
Apodaca, who has wrestled for five years, said the experience was fun and he was pleased with how it ended.
Martinez, meanwhile, was a little disappointed for himself but pleased with everything else.
“Individually, I wish I would have done better,” said Martinez, fourth in the 182-pound weight class. “As a team, I think we did well.”
Sandoval, meanwhile, is focused on a title repeat.
“Winning a state championship is a motivation for me to keep working hard,” Sandoval said.
Encinias said he is happy with the turnout of the season, the state performances and the doubling and tripling of individual wins among the team.
“This success is not due to good coaching,” Encinias said. “It’s the result of great leadership and the commitment of each of these guys to get better and push themselves everyday.”
The challenge doesn’t lessen. Encinias said the next group of Rattlers will face new competition as several schools, including Bloomfield, plan to drop into the 3A class.
“We are going to have to work harder throughout the season,” junior Dillon Wood said. “As a senior I and the others will have to step up and remind everyone this season is going to be even tougher.”
Encinias said he has four state placers coming back, and is confident with everybody on the squad.
“I am not worried at all,” Encinias said. “Every year I throw more at these guys, and they respond well.”