Socorro’s Mariana Perez starts her take-down move on Gallup’s Crystal Murrfo during the Sammy V wrestling tournament on Jan. 14.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Sammy Vivian came away from the wrestling tournament named after him with four medals, which isn’t bad when you are 75 years old and still in your prime.

Vivian didn’t have to compete to don the new hardware presented to him by the Warrior wrestlers who placed in the second annual Sammy V tournament, a 26-team spectacle held at Socorro High School on Jan 14.

“Without Sammy Vivian, there would be no wrestling in Socorro,” Warriors’ coach Joel Partridge said. “Those of us here now coaching were all introduced to wrestling by coach V.”

Vivian is a long-time youth wrestling coach (Partridge wrestled for him) and has coached hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes. Partridge credits him with starting the base of what has become quite a successful six-year head coaching career where the Warriors program has produced at least one state champion.

Before beginning Saturday’s event, Partridge addressed the capacity crowd.

“This man is 75 years old and is still in the room with us at practices. He goes to all our events and still helps us with our youth programs. We wouldn’t have wrestling here if it were not for coach Sammy,” Partridge said.

Socorro’s top-places (L-R) Patrick Woods, Isiah Estrada, Kane Johnson and Caden Moreland gave their medals to long-time coach Sammy Vivian to thank him for him starting and supporting wrestling.

Vivian started youth wrestling in Socorro and then began a junior high program before he fired up the high school’s program. There was a period when wrestling had started to lose its steam before Partridge took over the program.

“The passion and drive that Joel has brought into Socorro wrestling have caused a resurgence, and he has taken it to heights we never thought of having,” Vivian said. “I wish the roles were reversed, and I was young, and he was coaching me. He’s brought such a drive to the sport.”

Vivian was center stage throughout the day, and as the awards were being handed out, Socorro’s medalists made their way over to continue a tradition Isiah Estrada started last year.

The then 7th grader told his father last year that if he won a medal, he would give it to coach V and he did win.

Estrada, Kane Johnson, Patrick Woods and Caden Moreland continued that new tradition when they all presented their awards to Vivian.

Estrada (107), Johnson (127), and Moreland (189) were first-place finishers, while Woods came away with a second-place finish. Damian Otero (215) and David Gutierrez came away with third-place finishes.

Estrada was dominant on his way to medaling with a first-round bye followed by three straight falls – the longest taking 58 seconds in the championship match. Estrada’s second-round match took 39 seconds, and he won the next in 43 seconds.

Moreland’s championship was a bit of revenge when he won by fall at the 1:52 mark and defeated a Goddard wrestler that he lost to last week at the Conflict in Cleveland.

Johnson had some extended matches, winning by points 20-5 in the second round, a fall at the 3:31 mark, and a 16-8 decision in the final.

Woods ended up being the only Warrior without a first-round bye. He won his opener 20-6, recorded two straight falls, won a 6-4 decision, and Woods battled tough before giving up a 6-4 decision in the final.

“This is the best we have ever done in our tournament, especially considering the level of competition we had here today,” Partridge said.

The top finishers for the Lady Warriors were Jada Castillo (107) and Jayden Kayser (114), who both came away with fourth-place finishes.

Capacity times four

The day after the Sammy V tournament, Socorro hosted its junior wrestling tournament Warrior Warfare and jam-packed the high school gyms over two sessions.

The event saw 1,635 people pass through the door with 928 spectators, 465 wrestlers, and 242 coaches overseen by an army of volunteers, including parents and Socorro athletes. While everyone wasn’t in the gym simultaneously, it made for some very tight quarters, but the tournament moved along on schedule.

“I am so grateful for the help and support we have here,” Partridge said. “They all step up when we have a need, and they help us in every way they can. My family is all about wrestling, and they help keep me on track. I want to thank all of them for making this possible.”

A learning experience

Socorro’s wrestlers got the opportunity to officiate youth matches. It wasn’t due to a shortage of personnel but was designed to pique interest in becoming an official and give Partridge’s athletes a greater appreciation for what it takes to call a match.

“Letting them find out what it’s like on the other side is the primary reason we have our wrestlers officiate matches,” Partridge said. “It helps them realize that an official isn’t perfect, and they can better understand when a call goes against them.”