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Zach Doyle, left, and head coach Steve Chavez celebrate after Doyle’s state championship win at 285 pounds. Doyle, a senior, completed an undefeated season with the win.

Three Valencia County wrestlers claimed state championships this weekend at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

Belen’s Diego Avila and Damien Wood claimed titles at 132 and 145 pounds, respectively.

Zach Doyle was the only Los Lunas wrestler to win his weight class, taking the title at 285 on Saturday night in only 12 seconds.

This year, to ensure the cleanliness of the facility, the championships took place over two non-consecutive days.

Classes 3A and 4A, including Belen and Valencia, wrestled on Thursday. Class 5A and the girls’ tournament took place on Saturday.

In 4A, Belen earned a fourth-place finish with 175 points. Aztec claimed another state title, finishing in first with 224 points.

Los Alamos and Silver tied for second with 186 points. Valencia earned 15th place with 28 points.

Avila’s win at 132 gave Belen its second straight win in the weight class. Avila followed in the footsteps of Dylan Gonzales, who won the crown last year.

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Diego Avila of Belen wrestles for a state championship last Thursday in Rio Rancho.

Avila, who had his first-round opponent forfeit, won two of his three matches by falls, including the state title. Avila beat Diego Moya of Pojoaque Valley in the first quarterfinals on a fall before defeating Sam Budagher of Albuquerque Academy, the other top seed in his half of the bracket, on a 7-3 decision.

Avila met Markus DeHerrera of Bloomfield, who came into the tournament with a 22-3 record, in the state title match.

Avila was up 6-2 in the match in the second period before the fall.

Avila scored once in the first period on a takedown before scoring three times in period two before earning his fall victory, becoming Belen’s first state champion of 2021.

Wood earned his first state title after finishing third at 138 last year, winning the title at 145 pounds.

Wood entered the state tournament as a district champion with a 20-3 record and was dominant in his route to the state final, winning each of his first three matches on falls.

Wood beat Ulban Aragon of St. Pius in the first round, Dale Livingston of Miyamura in the second round and Diego Snell-Martinez to reach the final.

Wood, who wrestled hurt during the state tournament, had a matchup with Tony Thompson of Aztec waiting for him in the final.

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Damian Wood of Belen flexes to the crowd after being crowned the state champion at 145 pounds. Wood wrestled hurt on his way to his state title. 

Wood held off a furious rally from Thompson in the third period, scoring five points.

However, it proved to be too late, as the 6-2 lead Wood had going into the third period gave him a cushion he took advantage of.

After staving off two near falls from Thompson, which briefly put the Aztec wrestler in the lead, Wood scored a reversal as the last points of the match and give himself the 8-7 decision win.

Valencia’s Manuel Estrada also wrestled for a state title but lost on a fall to Tyler Huttinga of Kirtland Central at 170 pounds.

Estrada came into the tournament with a record of 20-3 and defeated Academy’s John Cartwright, Xander Griffin of Del Norte and Joseph Archuleta of Los Alamos on his way to the final.

Estrada scored 22 of the Jaguars 28 points, with Jeremiah Garcia and Omar Estrada each scoring three points at 182 and 220 pounds, respectively.

10 of Belen’s 14 wrestlers finished in the top six in their respective weight classes. Ely Gutierrez at 138 and Bobby Orona at 182 were the other two wrestlers who earned top-three finishes as both finished in third.

For the second straight year, the Belen girls also earned a medal, as Serena Saiz came up just short of winning the county’s first state title in girls wrestling with her second-place finish at 220 pounds.

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Serena Saiz of Belen receives a pep talk after losing in the state title match at 220. It was the highest ever finish for a Valencia County girl at state wrestling.

Saiz was one of three county girls to qualify for the tournament, joining Kiyah Padilla and Julianna Lucero of Los Lunas.

Saiz entered the tournament with a record of 4-1 and made quick work of her first-round opponent, Dakota Stuck of Roswell.

After earning a fall win less than 20 seconds into her first-round matchup, Saiz faced off with Neida Nevarez in the second round.

Nevarez was firmly in control in the first period of the match, scoring 10 points, including three near falls.

After taking a 10-2 lead into the second period, Saiz came storming back, scoring seven points, including two near falls before recording the winning fall to reach the final.

Jojera Dodge of Kirtland Central, who came into the state tournament undefeated and as the top seed, didn’t have to wrestle before the final after receiving a first-round bye and having her second-round opponent forfeit.

The Los Lunas boys had three opportunities for individual state champions but came up short in two of the three, as Jonathan Gurule finished in second at 126 pounds after losing in sudden victory.

Miguel Andrade, who came into the tournament at 18-1, finished second after losing on an 8-2 decision to Jayden Luttrell of La Cueva.

Zach Doyle, in the final meet of the season, won the Tigers’ only title at 285 pounds and completed his undefeated season. Doyle finished the year with a record of 23-0 including the state championships. Doyle earned all his wins at the tournament on falls and earned a resounding victory over Riley Butt of Rio Rancho in the state title match.

Padilla finished third for the Tiger girls at 100 pounds, earning the first girls wrestling medal for LLHS while Lucero was knocked out in the second consolation round.

It was the first year that Los Lunas had a girls team competing at state after the sport was officially sanctioned in 2019. 

Sports writer

Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.

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