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St. Michael’s wrestling team counting on seniors Dominic Smith and Sam Baca

St. Michael’s wrestling team counting on seniors Dominic Smith and Sam Baca, and an impressive group of underclassmen taking to the mats

Smith and Baca medalists at the 4A state championships last season

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

It’s been four decades since the Al Salazar years when he coached St. Michael’s to five-straight state wrestling championships. But it hasn’t been long since the Horsemen hoisted the first place trophy again.

Under Pat Aranda in 2010 and Joaquin (Wax) Garcia in 2012 and 2013, they reigned supreme behind standouts Koery Windham, Jesse Martinez and Adrian Montoya. Windham became a five-time champion, Martinez won four times, and Montoya three times.

Are they up to the task again? Probably not, but they are sure making strides under head coach Tommy Trujillo and assistants Robert Smith and Gerard Matthews.

Smith is new. He relocated to Santa Fe from Minnesota with his family two summers ago and became a wrestling assistant this season. His son, senior Dominic Smith, is one of two Horsemen presently undefeated, and he and fellow senior Sam Baca were medalists at last year’s state 4A championships.

“My son placed third at 138, and Baca third at 145,” he said. “And at the Rob Mickel Invitational we competed in this past Saturday in Salida, Colo., Dominic went 5-0 with four pins and a decision at 138, while Baca was also 5-0 and that included three pins in the 152 weight.”

It was a short-handed group that competed for St. Michael’s in a meet that included 15 Colorado schools. The co-captains, Smith and Baca, paved the way, and it was a great experience for the rest of the team.

There was sophomore Karim Perez coming away with a fourth place at 220, and it was highlighted by his first varsity pin in the opening round.

Joining him was a promising group of sophomores in the other weights: Mason Oshel (152), Kaleb Herndon (160), Jaden Mifsud (170), as well as juniors Alex Salazar (113) and Tayo Reginald (285). Eighth graders Daymon Lujan (120) and Jake Herndon (145-152) are other young, bright prospects.

Coach Smith came here with experience as a coach and teacher in Osseo, and he also had such an interest in wrestling that he worked publicity with the town newspaper’s sports editor. Now he’s happy to be back as a coach.

“We’ve been working hard,” he said, “on getting our numbers up, and its been a challenge to say the least.”

His son, Dominic, has 64 cumulative high school career wins between Osseo and St. Michael’s, and this includes 42 falls. He also ran for the Horsemen cross country team.

Baca has 60 high school varsity victories. He also played soccer for the Horsemen and was the kicking specialist for the football team.

There’s the Herndons, 8th grader Jacob and sophomore Kaleb. Jacob moved up to varsity after going undefeated at his weight (152) for the middle school team. Kaleb has improved at 160 after grappling as a freshman.

Oshel also goes at 160 pounds and is in his second season with much improvement, even took a fourth place at the Colorado meet.

Mifsud is in the 170 weight and who qualified for state last year, won a match, and looking to return.

Perez wrestles at 220, was also a state qualifier last year, and also won a match there. Tayo Reginald is the big man at 285 pounds who competed for the Horsemen his freshman year and could be a strong contender this time around.

Back in Colorado, Smith the wrestler pinned four-straight opponents to gain the final and decision James Franklin of Norwood, Colo., 6-2. Baca scored falls in three of four preliminary triumphs and than came from behind in the final to claim a 8-6 decision over Jacob Lewey of Colorado Springs Christian.

The trip might have paid dividends for the Horsemen. It was adventurous and competitive, a good start to the season.

Saturday morning, St. Michael’s will be competing at Tucumcari High in the Rattler Invitational

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