BLOOMFIELD — Teams with only three seniors, regardless of the sport, can have a leadership void, but that was never a problem this season for the Bloomfield Bobcats wrestling program thanks in large part to Troy Rightmire.
Rightmire was able to push himself and his team to the top of the podium at the 3A/A New Mexico Activities Association State Wrestling Championships on Saturday.
It was Rightmire's first individual title of his career and Bloomfield's first team title since 1984.
Bobcats' head coach Greg Shoemaker said that Rightmire and his other two seniors, Alex Portillo and Paul Jaramillo, kept the team together throughout the season.
"They were our captains along with J.D. (Robinson) and (Jacob) Spencer. They were extensions of the coaches and pushing our philosophy," Shoemaker said. "They were saying everything, so we never had to say much. They kept reminding the guys of what the goals were and made sure they stayed on track. The kids listened to them and looked up to them."
Rightmire had a unique career is his time with the Bobcats, gradually improving at state each season finishing in fifth place as an eighth grader, fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and second as a junior before finally coming out with the individual title in the final match of his high school career.
"It feels good to finally be able to take state. It's always something I've wanted to get and it felt so far away until this year," Rightmire said. "Once the season started I thought I'd be sad when it ended and not being able to wrestle anymore, but after this weekend I have no regrets."
The Bobcat captain had to defeat Shiprock's Raygen Charley in the 145-pound final with a 2-1 decision and thought the familiarity between the two led to the tight match.
"I saw him at district and knew what he liked to do, but he saw me and knew what I liked as well," Rightmire said.
Rightmire scored a reversal in the second period before Charley escaped, giving the Bobcat senior the 2-1 lead heading into the final period.
Rightmire held down Charley the entire two minutes of the third period to come away with the championship, and said that keeping the Shiprock wrestler on the mat was one of the most difficult things he's had to do in his career.
"It's extremely hard, and I'm still sore from that last period," he said. "It's really hard to hold them down, but you have to think, is it easier to hold them down or to let them up and have to go another period. So I held him down."
Rightmire came into the season as hungry as ever after his junior year ended with a heartbreaking loss in the 132-pound final after three overtimes to Silver's Shawn Debuskis.
That loss was all the motivation Rightmire would need this year and Shoemaker said he saw his captain use that loss to motivate the rest of the team as well.
"The whole season, he would remind the guys about what that felt like and what he was hungry for," Shoemaker said. "He kept inching closer to his goal and he wasn't going to take second to anybody."
For a senior to cap their career with an individual title is a special moment by itself, but add to that a team championship, and it's something that Rightmire was never sure he'd experience.
"I'm proud of the individual title I got, but in all honesty, I'm more excited about the team title," he said. "I get to share that moment with the rest of my team because I know how hard we've all worked for it."
Rightmire is hoping this is just the first of many titles heading back to Bloomfield and believes the championship will continue motivating Bobcat wrestlers for the seasons to come.
"I hope that everyone remembers it. I know I always will. Hopefully next year the seniors step up and continue what we've started," he said. "They're going to have to continue to work hard. They know what they need to do and know how good it feels to win and will be hungry for it again."Joshua Perry can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.