FARMINGTON -Voting for Outstanding Upper-weight Wrestler must have more or less concluded by the time John Foutz stepped onto the mat Saturday, Dec. 22, for his final match at Farmington Piedra Vista's 15th annual Panther Classic.
Not that Santa Fe's Javier Tapia ended up being a weak choice.
But with four pins already in four matches, the Bayfield junior again turned referees' and opposing coaches' heads his way as he viciously inverted hosting 220-pounder Jacob Bartley and made a title-clinching fifth stick in only 50 seconds.
"That Bayfield kid's a horse!" beamed one anonymous observer.
Foutz led the 3A Wolverines to one of the program's strongest second-place performances in recent memory. It was a performance that felt like a victory, considering a 5A team won the tourney championship.
"Definitely," Foutz said afterwards. "We're much tougher than we were last year; we've come a long ways, got a lot of young guys proving who they are, and I think it'll.be all good stuff from here."
"No doubt about it," agreed BHS head coach Todd McMenimen. "The work they're putting in is starting to pay off. We've got guys that believe in the program we're putting together, and they're buying in and believing hard...and it shows. Shows in our technique, but shows more in the fight."
And on the scoreboard. Piling up 96 points, Bayfield exited Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse trailing only 5A Piedra Vista with a first-place 205.
Foutz collected the Classic's runner-up team plaque, along with 132-pound champ Dylan Pickering.
4A Kirtland Central came in third with 92 points. 4A Gallup Miyamura and 4A Pojoaque Valley - paced by Tapia's two-pin, 4-0 effort at 170 pounds - rounded out the standings' top five with 84.5, and 69.5 respectively.
Foutz's victims also included Mancos' Nic Dan (in 1:12 elapsed), Piedra Vista 'Silver' member Gerardo Caro (1:49), 4A Grants, New Mexico's Toa Sanchez (3:07), and KCHS' Jarryd Pollard (3:01).
"There was a few things I need to work on - of course, everybody does - but one of the things I'm most proud of is just taking home gold for the first time in a while," said Foutz, his season record standing 11-1 with his lone loss to date coming against BHS teammate Daniel Westbrook.
BHS competed at the meet without Westbrook, as well as a few other absentees,
Pickering (12-2) lost by pin to KCHS' Domonique Benally 26 seconds into the second period, but then dominated PV Silver's Hubert Quintana 17-0, pinned Piedra Vista's Trey Brock in 36 ticks, then defeated Benally by an impressive 17-2 technical fall finalized 49 seconds into the third.
"The first match wasn't too great for me, but I'm glad I got to come back," said the sophomore. "Pinned one kid, tech'd the other, and then I got to wrestle the same kid (Benally) back for first! That was really awesome, because I ended up winning."
"Everybody wrestled how they should," he continued. "Like John said, everybody's got somewhere to improve."
Senior Colby Baker and sophomore Trey McKee each went 3-1 and placed second (Baker at 138, McKee at 145) while freshman Simon Schneider went 2-2 and earned third at 113, but each turned in one of the day's most crowd-hyping efforts.
Trailing late in his third match, versus Miyamura's Oscar Flores, Schneider rallied to swipe a 7-5 decision before his day then ended with a first-period loss to Outstanding Lower-weight Wrestler Tyler Ramsted of Piedra Vista.
In his semifinal bout against Pojoaque Valley's Gabriel Huerta, McKee twisted the upright Elk senior beneath him, then all but pancaked Huerta - trying to prevent a pin using only his neck - with three slams to the mat. He ended up getting the pin 1:21 into the second period.
Baker was all but on his back against Pojoaque Valley junior Kenneth Salazar during his round-robin weight's final bout. He not only wriggled out of a headlock and somehow kept his shoulders off the mat, he then completely reversed fate and stuck Salazar 1:08 into the second period.
"All three of them found the fortitude to fight off their backs and decide they wanted to be in it," McMenimen said. "Then all of a sudden, they turned it around - two of 'em got pins out of it, Simon just kept battling and came back for a late win - and they're starting to understand there's a reason not to quit."
"Three different guys who were stuck and stuck as stuck could be-one had his air completely cut off-then fight...and come back, win those matches? We battled harder today than I've ever seen."
Freshman James Mars took third at 126 pounds, going 2-2 and ending with a 15-7 major decision over Piedra Vista's Kyle Gordon. Junior Shane Moore went 1-3 and took fourth at 170 pounds, while sophomore Geron Goring went 1-3 and placed likewise at 152.
Finally, junior Connor Krug went 2-3 with two pins and finished sixth at 220, wrestling with a taped but functional right hand. "I'm so pleased with where we're at going into Break," McMenimen said. "We're taking the steps we need to take, and we're going to be pretty stinking tough by the end of the year."