Isiah Estrada makes a heady move as he goes for the pin on Saturday.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Despite tremendous individual finishes on Saturday at the Heroes Conquest tournament, the Socorro Warrior junior wrestling team didn’t show its usual consistency as a team. Still, considering the turmoil the team has gone through over the past six weeks, it’s understandable.

An arson-caused fire destroyed the Socorro Warriors wrestling room on Easter Sunday, and the afternoon blaze displaced the team. A scramble for a place to train and gather up equipment followed.

“I don’t think we’ve performed our best,” head coach Joel Partridge said. “It’s changed the way we’ve been able to train a little bit. We’re starting to get it dialed into where we have the consistency we’ve always had. Our programs have been known for being very consistent for many years. I wish we could have done better, but again, considering the circumstances, we did pretty well. I love seeing the kids out here wrestling and the parents, and it’s nice to bring something this big to town to help stimulate the economy.

The event run by RMN Events brought to Socorro at the Rodeo and Sports Complex 172 wrestling teams and more than 1,000 wrestlers.

“We had a good turnout considering this was the first Memorial weekend post-COVID that people actually got to go out and celebrate and do stuff with social distancing and all the stuff in place,” Partridge said.

Socorro has slowly been creeping onto the national scene, and Saturday’s tournament is a precursor to the Warriors “Under the Light,” a nighttime wrestling extravaganza set for July 15 that is drawing teams from out of state.

“We’ve got some California teams coming in for the duels. Many surrounding states – Arizona, Utah, and more – are starting to reach out. It’s a unique tournament because it’s at night. It’s an outdoor venue. We experienced thunderstorms and rainstorms during the tournament, and we were unaffected by them. The kids love the event’s atmosphere, and under the covered arena is quite a bit cooler,” Partridge said.

The tournament will have another unusual twist that nods to the rodeo venue.

“The kids will win belt buckles and cowboy hats. There will be a mechanical bull this year, and the referees dressed up as rodeo clowns. We’ve invested into the theme of it (rodeo) and trying to make it unique to Socorro,” Partridge said.

Another thing that’s unique to Socorro is the ability of its wrestlers to overcome the odds, and the Heroes Conquest was no different, with 100-pounder Tanner Winders and Isiah Estrada (109 pounds) coming away with first-place wins.

Fifth place finisher Julius Bernal shows his moves at the Heroes Conquest meet.

The Winders’ win was a breakthrough.

“He hasn’t had the most success as of recently. He’s been struggling a little bit in the last two tournaments and was in a little bit of a slump. Tanner found a way to dig one out there. He had a tough bracket, and I was happy for the kid. He’s dedicated,” Partridge said.

Estrada and several other wrestlers were double-bracketed as they wrestled in their regular division and took the chance to gain experience by moving up in weight class. Estrada won his 109-division and settled for fifth place in the 113-division after Partridge elected to pull him following “tweaking” his hip in a match.

Safety is always the biggest concern for young wrestlers, and it’s balanced with getting as many minutes as possible on the mat, which is the leading purpose athletes double and even triple their brackets. Estrada wanted to keep going, but Partridge pulled the plug on his day.

“Isiah is getting four to 12 matches every tournament he goes to, and I told him to look up a word. I said, looking up the word ‘attrition.’ Just take care of your body. He’s competitive. He’s young, and he’s a very talented kid. I have a duty to protect him and get him to take care of his body and make sure that he can last until he’s a senior (Estrada is an incoming freshman) and go to college. His ultimate goal is to wrestle in college,” Partridge said.

Other wrestlers with top places included second places by Kason Vanlandingham and Analeyah Gonzalez. Jayden Kayser, Landon Kayser, Kalena Vanlandingham, Silvano Heras Quezada and Damian Otero came away third places.

Jovie Catsillo and Sasha Gonzalez earned fourth place finishes, while Julius Bernal was fifth, and Ellanna Gonzalez and Sterling Winders were sixth.