Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

THS wrestling program in a state of transition


November 30, 2022

Ron Warnick

New Tucumcari High School wrestling coach Tim Clark watches his athletes go through workouts last week at Rhodes gymnasium. The Rattlers and Lady Rattlers will begin their season Saturday at Los Lunas.

Not only is the leadership of Tucumcari High School wrestling undergoing a transition, but so is the sport in New Mexico.

THS assistant coach Tim Clark was promoted to head coach of the Rattlers program after coach Eddie Encinias retired last season after 22 years and a New Mexico Wrestling Hall of Fame career.

"I have big shoes to fill," Clark said. "I've told the kids that Coach Encinias left a lineage in the program, but he also left at a time when there's a major transition happening within New Mexico wrestling.

"NMAA is changing things up. I don't know if it's for the better or not and how small schools are going to react to it."

Tucumcari's first meet is Saturday at the Tom Torres Duals at Los Lunas. The first home meet will be during Lady Rattler Invitational and the Rattler Invitational, which will be on Dec. 16 and 17 respectively.

More about the New Mexico Activities Association's changes in a moment. For now, Clark and assistant coach Dennis Garcia have changed his athletes' training regimen.

"We have to step up our wrestling techniques and get better on that part of it," he said.

"We're trying to get the kids to buy in of us moving conditioning to the end of practice. Conditioning at the end of practice is better when they're tired.

"Some of the kids were saying, 'Well, that's not the way Coach Encinias did it.' We're trying new things."

On his smartphone, Clark showed routes he's mapped that his athletes will run in the coming days. All are at least four miles.

"They're stepping up to the challenges and changes," he said of his athletes.

Clark said he has a number of returning grapplers to count on this season, including 170-pound state champion Xzander Garcia, who will be in his senior year.

Freshman Nick Romero was a district champion last season and finished third at state.

In girls wrestling, sophomore MiKayla Klinger is a two-time state qualifier.

"We have a good group," Clark said of his high-schoolers.

One new wrinkle is that Clark added more coed or girls meets to the schedule.

"The girls had to have a dedicated schedule of their own," Clark explained. "They can't wrestle against the boys anymore. I tried to schedule meets so I could have the coaching time with the girls or we're going to tournaments where they're hosting boys and girls at the same time."

Clark said since practices began Oct. 31, a core of 12 boys and eight girls have emerged on their respective varsity squads, though he acknowledged he probably will promote a few eighth-graders at some point. A total of 33 athletes are in the middle-school program.

Clark said one notable weakness for his high-school team is the lack of big wrestlers in the 215-pound and heavyweight classes. That could become a factor in dual-meet decisions.

A realignment of Tucumcari's district is one of multitude of changes that Clark and his athletes face this season. Tucumcari was moved into District 6, which includes Valley, Del Norte, Bernalillo, Ruidoso and Albuquerque Academy.

Instead of a district tournament, Tucumcari and all programs through Class 4A were moved into two 19-team regional tournaments. The top finishers of those events, plus a few wildcards, will produce a 16-athlete bracket for each weight class at the state tournament.

"It's going to be a challenge to get to state," Clark said. "You'd better be wrestling like you're supposed to be. What I've told the kids is, 'Your record is going to be a big deal because that's going to be a big criteria for seeding.'"

Tucumcari's region includes Albuquerque Academy, Artesia, Belen, Chaparral, Cobre, Del Norte, Deming, Goddard, Highland, Pecos, Ruidoso, Santa Teresa, Silver, Socorro, St. Pius, Tierra Encantada, Valencia and Valley.

The boys state tournament in February will encompass programs in Classes 1A to 4A, plus another state tournament for Class 5A schools.

"It will be a challenge" to get to state, Clark said.

The NMAA also reduced the number of weight classes from 14 to 13.


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