WALSENBURG- A Night of Champions, sponsored by the Huerfano Journal, was an evening to honor the seven State Wrestling Champions from John Mall High school. It was also the night when an historic tribute was paid to Pete and Ina Gomez for their lifetime commitment to the sport of wrestling. The John Mall Invitational Wrestling tournament, held every year since 1976 has been renamed The Pete and Ina Gomez Invitational Tournament.
The evening began with an banquet. Those in attendance included Brett Corsentino, Pete Gomez III, Shane Salazar, Geno Trujillo, and Bryan Crespin. Jess Vialpando was unable to attend and was represented by family members. Ivan Pacheco could not make the event. Also in attendance were the three coaches who helped coach these young men to victory.
Pete Gomez introduced John Mall′s very first champion, Brett Corsentino, who won his title in 1978. Corsentino wrestled at 167 pounds and went 29-0 his senior year to take the title. He set a high school record by earning 22 victories by pinfall. He also placed fourth at state his junior year. He completed his high school career with an 88-14 record. Corsentino competed in college and was a two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Champion and was fifth in the nation at the NAIA. Brett currently operares Corsentino Dairy.
Next up was Pete Gomez III who won the title in 1984 wrestling at 105 pounds. Gomez was also undefeated with a 29-0 record. He tied Corsentino’s 22 pinfall record. Gomez finished second in 1983 at the 98-pound class. He had a cumulative record of 92-10. Gomez joined the military where he was an armed forces champion. He said, "the skills I learned as a wrestler and the discipline helped me in my 20-year militrary career.” He also went on to say, "People would say wrestling for your father would be easy. He worked me harder than the others. He did not make me wrestle, I chose to wrestle."
Coach Gomez then introduced Shane Salazar. He told the story of how Shane and Geno Trujillo would alternate wrestling their weight classes, since both weighed 103 pounds. Shane′s only loss in 1990 was when he wrestled at 112, losing to a kid from Salida, who finished second at state. Shane won his crown at the 103-pound mark his senior year and completed the season with a 28-1 record. His overall record was 87-18. Shane said, "Coach Gomez and Ina took us in. They made us champions." The training and dedication he learned helped Shane continue his passion in the martial arts.
Geno Trujillo was Coach Gomez′s last champion in 1992. Trujillo was the third undefeated John Mall champion with a 25-0 record. He won his championship gold in the 119-pound division.. Geno was a two-time Regional Champion and was also a Greco National Wrestling Champion.
Coach Robert Barber coached two of the champions. Barber said in his opening comments, "Few people have the privilege to work with these outstanding individuals. Ivan Pacheco was one of those individuals.” Ivan won his championship in 1994 at 119 pounds. He had a record of 27-2 his championship year. Barber then talked about Jess Vialpando. As a freshman, he placed sixth, finished second as a sophomore with a 32-2 record and took it all as a junior with a 33-1 record in 2004. Vialapondo did not compete his senior year. He compiled a 106-19 record. While he was unable to come back home from his job in Kansas, he was well represented by a dozen members of his family.
The final champion was presented by current coach Josh Vialpando who introduced Bryan Crespin this way, "We finally got a big boy up there." Crespin was the first heavyweight from John Mall to win the title. Vialpando said of Crespin, "I′ve coached Bryan since he was a peewee. He was a pudgy kid then with a mohawk, and he still is a pudgy kid with a mohawk." His comments drew laughs from the 70 peopole in attendance. Crespin was a four-time Regional Champion. Injuries at the state tournament prevented Brian from claiming more than the one title. His overall record in high school had him with over 140 wins.