FARMINGTON — At 9 a.m. on Christmas morning, while many families are sitting at home enjoying the holiday, the Piedra Vista wrestling team will be hitting the road as it searches for stronger competition on its quest for a fourth-straight state championship.
The Panthers leave Wednesday on the 930-mile trek to Reno, Nev., where they'll take part in the Sierra Nevada Classic, featuring 85 teams from across the western United States.
PV head coach Levi Stout said he's thankful to the parents and families of his wrestlers for giving the team the chance to compete during the holiday and that without their support, none of the team's success would be possible.
"It shows the family support. It shows the community support. They're all on board with what we're doing," Stout said. "It's just amazing. The community has given donations, and the parents have gone out and raised money knowing (the boys) wouldn't be with them on Christmas."
The wrestlers were also grateful for the opportunity to compete in the tournament.
"It means a lot, there were probably a couple of families that were a little more upset than others, but it's great to have the families there to support us," said Jacob Palmgren, who was the 2013 4A state champion in the 120-pound weight class. "It's hard because leaving on Christmas day kind of sucks, but it's a big tournament and we need that competition."
Anthony Juckes, three-time state champion, believes missing the holiday with the family will be made a little easier because of the brotherhood that's developed within the Panthers' wrestling room.
"We are a family. We're all brothers in here and it's pretty awesome to be able to go on the trip with these guys," Juckes said. "It shows a lot about our wrestling family here giving us the opportunity to get some good mat time."
With a lot of strong teams wrestling in the tournament, Stout is ready to see how his guys handle the challenge.
"It's top notch competition, about 50 schools from California, another 20 from Nevada plus I saw some teams from Washington and Oregon in there," he said. "I like coming from New Mexico, I think we'll be able to use some moves that don't always work here and be successful there."
Stout said he will be tweaking his lineup a little to give the team a better chance at success.
"We've got some guys dropping down a weight class to be more competitive at that level," he said. "I think we can score some major points and hopefully finish in the top five."
Juckes said the team is ready to go win, but the most important thing is that everyone find a way to continue to improve as they look toward the state tournament in February.
"I just want to go get some good mat time and have some good matches," he said. "Hopefully we can finish top three or top five as a team, and I want to win the tournament."