Moriarty had a solid performance at the high school boys and girls state wrestling tournament, Feb. 21-22 at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Moriarty’s boys’ team, with 10 wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament, finished sixth out of 26 schools in Class 4A.

Six of Moriarty’s boys placed—finishing among the top six grapplers in their individual weight classes—including Nick Sanders, who made it all the way to the state championship round.

Three Moriarty girls also qualified to compete in New Mexico’s first-ever fully sanctioned girls Class 1A-5A state tournament.

Sanders, wrestling in the 285-pound class, cruised through his opening round with a pin, and followed it with wins in the quarterfinal round and semifinal round, where he bested last year’s state champ.

“I felt pretty confident with my ability to go further,” Sanders said. “I came here to pin, win and go all the way to the top.”

In the championship round, Sanders got injured early in the match and ultimately lost, finishing as the state runner-up.

“He rolled his ankle, it was pretty bad,” Moriarty head wrestling coach Bryan Stiverson said. “When it happened, the ref was worried and said he heard a pop, but [Sanders] wasn’t going to quit.”

With his second-place finish, Sanders completed the season with a record of 34-3.

Moriarty’s other boys’ grapplers who placed were Jon Valdez, an eighth-grader who finished sixth in the 106-pound weight class; Colton Zeisloft at 160 pounds, Asaiah Kamplain at 195, and Milo Trujillo at 220, all finished in fifth place; and Andres Lopez at 126 finished fourth.

“It was a really good tournament for the boys—the boys put it all together,” Stiverson said. “We had a rough year with injuries, sickness and some missed tournaments, but when it came to the state tournament our kids turned it on and we finished ahead of some good, good teams.”

Moriarty’s girls—freshmen Jolie Chavez at 100 pounds and Cora Zeisloft at 145, and senior Domniarre “Mimi” Notah at 113—all had a tough time in their first sanctioned state tournament, losing their opening rounds and then getting eliminated in the consolation rounds.

“I tried my best, which matters,” Notah said. “But being here at this wrestling tournament is very new to me, I was actually in shock, I was kind of getting anxiety.”

“It’s nerve-racking seeing how many are here but it’s also really cool just knowing you made it, it’s a big accomplishment,” Zeisloft said.

“It was hard,” Stiverson said. “Girls districts was tough, there were 31 teams, we went in a little banged up so we only qualified three [for state]. Mimi and Cora got paired against number-one seeds [in their first rounds], so we knew it was gonna be tough—but it is what it is. It’s gonna be a growing thing.”

Other area high school grapplers at the state tournament were Dylan Justus, a senior at East Mountain who wrestles for Manzano and captured fourth place in the boys 120-pound class, and Manzano junior Brianna Johnson, 126 pounds, who lives in the East Mountains.

“East Mountain doesn’t have a wrestling team so I’ve been driving into town every day to wrestle for Manzano ever since freshman year,” Justus said, adding that he used a “chicken wing” move—sliding his arm through his opponent’s arm and behind his back—to get a pin.

Johnson said she lost her first round by decision to the state champion from last year but felt good that she lasted the entire round and wasn’t pinned. “I put in a battle, so that was good,” Johnson said.

Ger Demarest
Ger Demarest

Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.