RIO RANCHO A room full of wrestlers embraced the grind that is a high school wrestling season, and 14 of them helped Piedra Vista win a third consecutive state title.

The Panthers demolished the competition at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, scoring 314.5 points to defeat second place Los Lunas by 138 points and claim a third 4A wrestling state championship in as many years.

"I took the job in 2007, and this was my goal," said PV head coach Levi Stout. "I thought it would take a few years, and it did, but we are where I thought we could be, and we can only get better from here."

The rest of 4A will have nightmares if PV continues to improve.

The Panthers placed 11 wrestlers in the semifinals and five in state championships.

All five PV wrestlers in state championship matches, Jacob Palmgren, Anthony Juckes, Ryan Rino, Wyatt Hardy and Christian Acosta, came out victorious.

It started with Palmgren, who won every match in the state tournament with either a pin or tech fall as he advanced to 38-0 on the season.

In the finals, he pinned Los Lunas' Ricardo Alvarado in the second round.

"Now I have to work for a national championship," Palmgren said. "I am going to Virginia Beach and a few other big tournaments this summer, and I want to be nationally ranked."

Palmgren moved to Farmington last summer from Del Norte, Colo., where he won an individual state title a year ago.


He began wrestling at the age of 5, and realized his potential after placing sixth in the Colorado Middle School championships in his seventh and eighth grade years.

"I took sixth as a freshman, too. After that, I decided to kick it up a notch and work a lot harder," he said. "This was a great weekend for me. My goal was to come in here and win a team title because I never have won one before. I pushed my teammates to do the best we could, and we did."

Juckes earned his third state title in as many years, and the sophomore is now more than halfway toward becoming just the fourth wrestler in New Mexico state history to win five state championships.

"I can only get better, I think. I hope to get some more All-American status this summer in bigger tournaments and bust my butt two win two more state titles," Juckes said.

In the finals, Juckes was able to win a 6-0 decision over Robert Escojeda of Aztec, who he had split two previous matchups with this year.

"It was an exciting match for me, and one I knew I could win if I kept the pace," Juckes said. "I was happy to wrestle Robert because he is such a great wrestler and had such a good tournament."

Juckes thanked his coaches and father, Mike Juckes, for always being in his corner and bringing him as far as he has come.

At 152 pounds, Stout's step-son Ryan Rino claimed a state title after outscoring Los Lunas wrestler Eddie Canizo 6-4.

"You have to burn it to earn it," said the junior as he collapsed to the floor in exhaustion. "All the hard work really pays off. Pushing yourself. I came in here nervous, but I wasn't going to lose my cool. I came here to take first place, and I wasn't going to waste any time. With simple hard work, you can be a champion."

Right after Rino's big win, his wrestling room partner Wyatt Hardy claimed the top spot on the podium at160 pounds by defeating Los Alamos' No. 1-seeded Corey Geyer in a 4-3 decision.

"I have been working at this since 8th grade. I went 2-12 that year," Hardy said. "Just a few days ago my coaches reminded me of my freshman year and how I was trying to throw head locks with horrible form. I never imagined I would be here. It is the most amazing feeling in the world."

Hardy and Rino's wins epitomized what Stout means when he says wrestling partners in his room are what have gotten the team this far.

"Rino works me harder than anyone ever could," Hardy said. "He has me ready for everything. To see him win shows how tough our room is."

PV's night ended when senior leader Christian Acosta claimed the top place at 220 pounds against Aztec's Brad Hardin, earning a pin victory in the second round.

Hardin and Acosta went to overtime in the District 1-4A tournament title match, but Acosta was able to win decisively Saturday night.

"It was my last year and I wanted to go out with one state title," Acosta said. "It is such a great feeling knowing I am the best in the state."

Acosta's win was the first in three years for a PV upper-weight class wrestler.

"I can go into school Monday and everyone will know wrestling isn't just a little guy sport," he said. "I represented the PV heavier weights."

Overall, PV had 13 boys of its 14 place in the top six in the state tournament.

"That is a successful season. We accomplished all of our goals," Stout said.

PV also had a slew of third-place finishers.

Sam Sandoval (106) battled his way back after a tough quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Jose Tapia of Capital.

Sandoval pinned Miyamura's Toshio Herrera in the third-place match.

Also placing third was Philip Archuleta at 113 pounds. Archuleta defeated Kirtland Central's David White 7-6 with a third round comeback.

White had defeated Archuleta in a close decision during the District 1-4A tournament, and Archuleta was so upset with the loss that he spent the rest of the afternoon drilling and running stairs when he got back to PV.

His extra work paid off Saturday, as he had a bit more left in the tank in the final minute of the third round against White.

Ryan Ruybalid had a vision quest his senior year, but he fell in the semifinals to Belen's Phillip Gonzales for the fourth consecutive year at the state tournament.

But Ruybalid bounced back nicely, reaching the third-place match before eventually defeating Farmington senior Brandon Padilla 4-2 in overtime.

"Ruybalid left it all on the mat. The big thing for him was how he recovered from his loss," Stout said. "He came back and took third and wrestled his butt off."

Dillon Strunk (145) finished the state tournament in impressive fashion, defeating Kirtland Central's Sam Chee 9-4 in the third-place match.

"It comes back to practice partners for our guys like that. They push each other every single day. There are no lazy days between Rino, Hardy and Strunk," Stout said.

Zach Ahlgrim (195) took third place when he was able to secure a 5-0 decision over Santa Fe's Anthony Maestas.

Kason Wilkinson closed out the consolation bracket with an impressive 4-2 overtime victory over Valencia's Nathan Jolley, who he beat 4-3 in the final seconds of the third round in Friday's quarterfinals.

Also placing fourth for PV John Ellsaesser (182) while Wyatt Weaver (138) took fifth.

What has made the Panthers so successful is the tireless work of his assistant coaches and volunteers who dedicate their time in the wrestling room each day, Stout said.

"We start with the little things. We demand respect in the room throughout," Stout said. "Our coaches and kids do things right and treat people right. It is a nonstop grind at PV, and that is how our kids have blossomed. We are just a tough room, no matter who is in there."

Some have begun to call PV wrestling a dynasty with all the recent success, but Stout hasn't quite bought into that line of thinking, yet.

"I didn't know you were considered a dynasty at three. Now that people are considering us a dynasty, I don't know. I honestly think we are going to be better next year," he said.

There isn't much left for PV to accomplish, but Stout believes there is still room to grow, and he isn't planning on leaving anytime soon.

"We will keep traveling and find tougher tournaments. I think we will try to go to the Tournament of Champions next year in Reno, Nev. See if we can make some noise there," Stout said. "We will keep searing for competition and keep learning.

"I am happy. I have a huge attachment to these guys and a commitment to them."

After such a decisive team win in which the Panthers had enough team points after Friday's matches to clinch the state title, PV's seniors are confident the winning tradition will only continue.

"That score means PV isn't a joke. We aren't going anywhere," Acosta said.