Brian Armijo takes a Belen wrestler to the mat during action against the Eagles.
Carmen Marquez | Water Canyon Photography

After beating Deming 36-33 and tying Silver 33-33, Socorro is a two-time district champion, and coach Joel Partridge is calling this repeat the most meaningful team accomplishment in his six years with the Warriors program.

Partridge isn’t discounting his program’s former achievements that include bringing home an individual gold medal each of those seasons. Still, the landscape of New Mexico high school wrestling has changed, and last season’s title came in a four-team district that Socorro dominated with sheer numbers.

Things were much different this season, with eight teams (Artesia, Chaparral, Cobre, Deming, Goddard, Santa Teresa, Silver and Socorro) competing for the league crown, and it was a challenge the entire way to include Socorro’s tie against Silver being decided by criteria.

“As a team, this group has been the most accomplished squad since the inception of our program,” Partridge said. “To be the district champ this year is pretty amazing. To be able to say we’re district champs and that we beat a storied program like Silver, who’s very well coached, and Deming, who’s very talented and well-coached—it was very satisfying for our coaching staff, myself, and everybody involved because it was so meaningful.”

The 2023 boys Regional Tournament is being hosted by Socorro. The girls head to the mat on Feb. 3 and 4 at Del Norte High School, and the boys wrestle the following weekend, Feb 10-11 at Socorro High School. There will be 19 teams from three districts in town on that weekend, and Partridge hopes the Warriors and Lady Warriors can rise to the top.

With an apparent winning combination going on, Partridge won’t be changing much about his team’s approach to the post-season. There will be some refinement of techniques and “polishing his diamonds” with a little extra pressure after reviewing tapes of his athlete’s performances.

“I think practice does get a little more intense than normal, but we’re a dang intense group, though. So, there’s not much difference – we’re trying to win every meet. We’re trying to get everybody dialed in to win state.”

Wrestling Like a Champion

Socorro’s Patrick Woods won a sudden-death thriller that lifted the Warriors to a team win.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

There may be as many as five Socorro wrestlers who have a legitimate shot at making the finals of the state wrestling tournament. While Partridge pressures his athletes in practice, he’s not about to start making predictions because too many factors are at play.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the efforts of someone like senior 133-pounder Patrick Woods who was in the feature match between Socorro and 5A Roswell. The Warriors were leading 36-33 when Woods squared off against Roswell’s Jerry Romero in a winner-takes-it-all match.

Woods fell behind 5-0 and maneuvered his way back into an 8-8 tie going into the first overtime. With less than ten seconds on the sudden-death clock, Woods found a weakness and rolled his opponent’s shoulders to the mat.

It was the kind of pressure-packed moment Partridge was looking for out of a wrestler he feels has shown the most growth since showing up at youth wrestling as a 10-year-old.

“When Patrick first showed up to wrestle, he didn’t play any sports, and he was kind of timid,” Partridge said. “He was trying to find something that he could latch on to, just somewhere to find a home, something for him to do. His mom wanted him to be active. Patrick wore a cape to his first match. I guess it was kind of a security thing for him at the time.”

Now it’s Woods’s opponents that need a little security because he doesn’t wear a cape anymore, but if he did, it would have a big capital “S” on it.

“Patrick has morphed into a hard-working young man, and he’s completely bought into himself. Not just wrestling — he’s bought into believing in himself. He’s a tremendous leader. He works hard. That moment when he went into sudden death — I was completely confident in him.”

Woods was prepared for the pressure-packed moment and carried the same confidence into the circle with him.

“I’m always inside my head a lot, so every time I go into a match, I think that I need to win the match. That’s the mentality. Not only do I go in knowing I need to win the match — I am going to win the match. You can’t have that second thought that ‘I might lose.’ In this match, I had a mental block on and was only thinking about continuing to push, push, push mentality and just step on the gas,” Woods said.

His win drove his team and fans into a wild frenzy, with Partridge jumping up and down with excitement.

“That’s been the theme for Patrick this year. He’s been in overtime, I want to say, five or six times this year, and I don’t think he’s lost one yet. He’s like the overtime king this year. He’s got it. He can dig down deep. He’s not afraid of it. The moments are not too big. And he shines brightest in those moments for whatever reason. He just found a way, and it’s extremely exciting,” Partridge said.