Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Melton Memorial a major test for wrestlers – The Durango Herald

Two titlists, three runners-up among county boys

Bayfield’s Deegan Barnes, right, keeps his cool while inverted against Farmington, New Mexico’s Wycolt Henry in the 165-pound division’s championship match Saturday at the 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational in Ignacio. Barnes pinned Henry moments later, while still inverted, to win the title. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Reading like a who’s who of state tournament contenders – if not favorites – the top four teams at the conclusion of Ignacio’s 47th Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday would have been imposing anywhere.

Going into No. 1 in the New Mexico Activities Association’s Class 4A rankings as posted on newmexicowrestling.com, Bloomfield captured first place with 165 points. No. 4 in 5A at the time, Farmington earned 144.5 points and finished second. Ranked No. 3 in the CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll, Cedaredge took third with 132, while NMAA 4A No. 2 Aztec piled up 104.5 and placed fourth.

“This sucker’s probably as tough or tougher than any regional tournament we’d end up at, you know?” IHS head coach Jordan Larsen said after his Bobcats scored 16 points and placed 12th out of 17 scoring squads.

Ignacio’s Kendrick Nossaman works against Bloomfield, New Mexico’s Manuel Chavarria III during 157-pound action at Ignacio’s 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday. Nossaman would lose a close 6-5 decision. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Freshman Zane Pontine paced the ‘Cats with a fifth-place finish – via a disqualification of Durango’s Riley Belt – at 132 pounds, and lone senior Keaton McCoy finished seventh at 144 after pinning Pagosa Springs’ Jacob Miller in one minute even.

“Pontine taking fifth, that was good – I don’t think he was quite ‘happy’ with it, but that’s the name of the game at a tournament like this,” Larsen said. “Keaton wrestled all right; I don’t think he wrestled as well as he wanted to, and … lost a couple matches that maybe we should have won or at least been tighter in. But … he missed a lot of time early (this season) and it takes some tournaments to get back into it. So we’re going to shake it off and, God willing, he’s going to keep working hard.”

Freshmen Aven Bourriague and Lincoln deKay ended up with sixth-place finishes at 106 and 138. Bourriague matched Pontine’s team-best 3-2 tourney record. McCoy and deKay each went 2-2. Freshman 113-pounder Joshua Kerrigan went 1-4, but freshman Dillon Brann went 0-4 at 120 and sophomore Kendrick Nossaman likewise at 157. Also competing at 138, sophomore Asher Gallegos went 1-3 with an end-of-day forfeit win over DHS’ Steven Gallegos.

“Those guys … who are all so danged young, they all have been doing such a great job learning and soaking it all in,” Larsen said. “They’ve been getting better every week. And that was a lot of the talk Saturday with the boys. ‘How do we deal with this adversity? How do we come back, learn from this and use it as fuel for the fire?’”

The tournament’s lower-weight Outstanding Wrestler honor went to Bloomfield senior 132-pounder Adan Benavidez. Benavidez remained unbeaten, going 5-0 after Farmington senior Julian Juarez had to medically forfeit their championship encounter. FHS 175-pounder Ivan Smith earned the upper-weight Outstanding Wrestler by going 3-0 in his pool, then pinning Nucla’s Arthur Connelly and Aztec’s Logan Barboa (in only 0:25) in the placement round to improve to 35-1 overall.

Benavidez and Smith started the Melton ranked No. 2 and 3 in newmexicowrestling.com’s top 15 pound-for-pound rankings.

Bayfield’s Jordan Cundiff ties up Cedaredge’s Ryan Brunk during their heavyweight match at Ignacio’s 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday. Cundiff would pin Brunk in an elapsed 3:56. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Wolverine’s finish a county-best seventh

Somehow getting out of one headstand and simultaneously setting up in a more advantageous one to pin Farmington’s Wycolt Henry 1:40 into the second period, senior Deegan Barnes ended up posting a perfect 5-0 mark to win the 165-pound division – helping Bayfield amass 83 team points and a seventh-place result.

Henry won the Melton last winter at 160 pounds, while Barnes placed third at 152.

Keaton Pickering finished second at 120 after a 7-3 loss to Cedaredge’s Ethan Hice left him with a 3-1 record for the day. All three of Pickering’s victims, however, succumbed by technical fall as the junior put his repertoire on display. Going 4-1 with three pins, BHS freshman 138-pounder Zayden Cundiff also finished as a Melton runner-up after losing a 10-0 major decision to Aztec’s Tony Thompson in the division’s finale.

Junior heavyweight Jordan Cundiff ended up placing fifth, as did sophomores Payton Montgomery (113) and Logan Valencia (126), while freshman Caelan Ramos went 3-2 at 157 after a forfeit win over Norwood’s Kaden Morales to place seventh. After a first-round bye, freshman Estevan Gonzales managed to go 1-3 and place eighth at 106.

Durango’s Wyatt Bartel, right, works to turn Ignacio’s Lincoln deKay during their 138-pound bout Saturday at IHS’ 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational. Bartel would win by third-period pin, earning fifth place at the weight. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Demons place in top 10

Powered by Ryan Dugan’s 4-1, second-place showing at 113 pounds and Asher Thiessen’s winning 3-0 mark in the 106-B division, Durango managed to register 34.5 team points and finish 10th.

Two of Thiessen’s three wins came via pin, and Dugan notched three pins before losing 9-2 to Bloomfield’s Hunter Samora in the finale. Durango’s 120-pounder Dillon Harris bounced back from two early losses and reeled off three straight wins, including a 4-2 victory over Montrose’ Hunter Hess with fifth place at stake.

Also placing fifth, thanks to four consecutive consolation-round pins, was Wyatt Bartel at 138. Riley Belt ended up sixth at 132, and Elijah Ponce brought home seventh at 113 after a first-period pin of Kerrigan.

In the upper weights, however, DHS struggled and posted a collective 1-16 mark at 150 pounds and above, with Chris McGrath out. Braxton Waddell managed to pin Montezuma-Cortez’s Kaden Nielson and finish 1-2 at 175.

Bayfield’s Caelan Ramos elevates Aztec, New Mexico’s Evan Lane during 157-pound division action at Ignacio’s 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday. Ramos would defeat Lane by 15-5 major decision. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Ignacio’s Keaton McCoy, protecting a nose broken a week earlier in Arizona, works atop Pagosa Springs’ Jacob Miller during 144-pound action at IHS’ 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday. McCoy would win by pin to cap off his Senior Day showing. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Bayfield’s Deegan Barnes, right, shakes hands with his 165-pound division championship opponent, Wycolt Henry of Farmington, after prevailing by pin at Ignacio’s 2023 Butch Melton Memorial Invitational on Saturday. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

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