Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Belen’s Manny Vardez, with a pin here in the semifinals, went on to win the 114-pound title to help the Eagles capture the Region 2-4A championship.

After last weekend’s regional boys’ competition, defending 4A state champion Belen and traditional 5A powerhouse Los Lunas appear to be in excellent position with the NMAA Wrestling State Championships set for Friday and Saturday at the Rio Rancho Events Center.  


Belen Eagles 

The crown sits firmly on the head of defending state 4A wrestling champion Belen, and after the Region 2-4A tournament last weekend, it became obvious it will take a mighty blow to knock the Eagles off the throne.   

In the Belen High School gymnasium last Friday and Saturday, the Eagles racked up five individual titles on the way to a dominating victory over runner-up St. Pius, 267 to 151. Seven other Belen wrestlers placed, each earning a trip to the state meet.   

“I think we’re a little better than last year,” said Augustine Lopez, the region champ at 185 pounds. “I think we’ve got a lot more ‘dogs,’ I guess.”  

BHS was in excellent position after eight wrestlers won their semifinal matches Saturday morning, including Manny Vardez at 114 pounds.  

“That kid beat me in the districts, so it was kind of a ‘get back’ for me,” Vardez explained.    

The finals started Saturday afternoon just the way BHS had hoped, with Joshua Jaramillo taking the title at 107 pounds and improving his season record to 41-1. Vardez followed with a victory at 114 pounds, and the Eagles’ rout was on.   

Aztec and Bloomfield were the top two finishers in the Region 1-4A Championships and are expected to bring Belen its biggest challenge at the state championship. Bloomfield finished second to BHS last season by just a half a point, while Aztec was third.   

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that could potentially make the finals,” Belen coach Nick Sanchez said about the state meet. “We’re peaking at the right time. Hopefully, we will show it.”  


Valencia’s Elijah Duran finished second at 215 pounds at the Region 2-4A championship Saturday in Belen.

Valencia Jaguars 

Valencia finished in a tie for ninth at regionals, led by two runners-up, Elijah Duran at 215 pounds and Omar Estrada at 285, who is often outweighed by about 50 pounds.  

“It’s hard,” Estrada said after pinning his opponent in the semifinals. “He tried to throw me over his shoulder, and I dropped my hips. I just tried to hit it, and it worked.”  


Region 2-4A results   

107 pounds: 1. Joshua Jaramillo, BHS, junior; 5. Jovan Suarez, VHS, sophomore  

114 pounds: 1. Manny Vardez, BHS, sophomore; 4. Richard Madrid, VHS, senior   

121 pounds: 5. Matias Padilla, BHS, senior   

127 pounds: 1. Derian Rodriguez, BHS, senior   

133 pounds: 3. Ansel Salaz, BHS, junior   

139 pounds: 2. Edward Freeman, BHS, junior   

145 pounds: 1. Diego Avila, BHS, senior   

152 pounds: 2. Quinton Thompson, BHS, senior   

160 pounds: 5. Adrian Anaya, BHS, senior   

172 pounds: 5. Damion Gomez, BHS, freshman; 8. Jacob Linsley, VHS, senior   

189 pounds: 1. Augustine Lopez, BHS, senior   

215 pounds: 2. Elijah Duran, VHS, senior; 4. Daniel Chilimidos, BHS, junior   

Los Lunas Tigers 

Los Lunas showed impressive depth while capturing the Region 2-5A Championships in Roswell. With nine wrestlers in the finals, the Tigers defeated Las Cruces 264.5 to 233.  

The final score might have been even more dominant, but LLHS won just two of their championship matches.  

“We had a few upsets here and there,” to get to the finals, said Steve Chavez, LLHS coach. “I was hoping to win a few more in the finals, but that’s fine. These kids are young.”  

Still, Los Lunas qualified wrestlers in all 13 weight classes, with Noah Gurule at 121 pounds and 189 pounder Logan Talley taking regional titles with pins in the finals.   

“It’s tough winning a regional title. These kids did it, and I’m proud of them,” Chavez said, adding it’s time to look forward. “You go to the next chapter. You just read the newspaper and then throw it away. It’s old news already.” Chavez said.  

Chavez said Volcano Vista, Cleveland, La Cueva, Atrisco Heritage and Los Lunas should vie for the top five spots, but the Tigers must “wrestle to the best of their ability — it’s going to be a dogfight.”   


Region 2-5A results  

107 pounds: 2. Matthew Valdez, LLHS, eighth grade  

114 pounds: 2. Andrew Sanchez, LLHS, freshman  

121 pounds: 1. Noah Gurule, LLHS, senior  

127 pounds: 2. Andres Romero, LLHS, sophomore  

133 pounds: 2. Ernie Gonzales, LLHS, senior  

139 pounds: 2. Ayden Cordova, LLHS, junior  

145 pounds: 3. Robert Perez, LLHS, senior  

152 pounds: 2. Aaron Pyle, LLHS, junior  

160 pounds: 2. James Bachicha, LLHS, junior  

172 pounds: 4. Jonathan Trujillo, LLHS, senior  

189 pounds: 1. Logan Talley, LLHS, senior  

215 pounds: 3. Andrew Romero, LLHS, senior  

285 pounds: 4. Josiah Baca, LLHS, senior 

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.