The University of New Mexico Esports made waves at the biggest Esports tournament in New Mexico last weekend, taking home first-place victories in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Splatoon 3, and Mario Kart, and placing well in several other game categories.

Five of UNM’s teams made the trip down to Las Cruces to compete in the New Mexico State University Invitational, an in-person tournament with competitions for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mario Kart, Splatoon 3, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Valorant. Thirty-five schools competed at the competition with competitors from middle school up to the university level. UNM teams, SSBU Cherry (varsity) and Silver (junior varsity), LoL, Mario Kart, and Splatoon 3, won three of the six games. 

“All we had wanted to do all weekend was to play and prove ourselves as being one of the top Esports schools in New Mexico and that is exactly what we did,” said Dale Olguin, UNM Esports communication director.

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate (SSBU)

After competing virtually in the Collegiate Esports Commissioner's Cup Tournament for a game that lacks good online capabilities, they were more than excited to compete in an in-person event against some of the top schools in the state. This tournament had two formats for SSBU, a 3v3 format (crews) and a singles bracket where people played 1v1. The team performed fantastically in both game formats, winning a championship in the crews format, and had four players that placed in second through fifth places in singles. 

“Our SSBU Cherry team was not predicted to win this tournament being the 3rd seed overall, meaning we would need to beat some schools that the tournament organizer deemed better than us to take it home,” Olguin said. “We would want to win regardless of where we were placed but proving them wrong would make this win even better.”

The format of the tournament was single elimination meaning the players needed to win without dropping a single match, which is a tough feat to accomplish, but not for the SSBU Cherry team. The team consisted of Josue “Szah” Ortega, Dominic “Cough” McClure, and Aaron “Goteem” Torres. The team beat schools such as Portales High School, University of Texas at El Paso, and “favorite rival” NMSU’s varsity team. Despite their lower seed, SSBU represented UNM Esports first win of the weekend. 

The SSBU Silver team, consisting of John “GRIS” Barriga, Cole “Grime” Miller, Rhoan “Isolde” McMaster, and Seth “Artica” Medina secured a solid fourth-place finish. A UNM versus UNM Grand Finals seems possible for the teams.

For the singles bracket for SSBU, seven players entered the bracket, where faced off 1v1 against other players. UNM took four of the top five spots of this tournament, but fell short of 1st place to “Cambria,” a Central New Mexico student. Josue “Szah” Ortega placed second and made it to the Grand Finals by beating Los Alamos-based player “Magenta.” Dominic “Cough” McClure took third place after beating players like, “Magenta,” Rio Rancho High School’s Player “Plastic Luv,” and defeating UNM’s Cole “Grime” Miller in a run back. “Grime” took fourth place. Rhoan “Isolde” McMaster went through their bracket beating NMSU’s player “Boston,” NMSU’s player “Sweet Tea,” and La Cueva High School’s hidden boss “JMS,” before getting knocked out by UNM’s “Grime.”

“Team eliminations were the story of this Top 8 for our players, with the tournament looking like another installment of our weekly tournament series Lobo Mash with all of our talent at the top of it. We had 3 players who did not make the top 8 but still placed well with GRIS at 17th, and Goteem and Artica who both placed 25th. We are ecstatic with the performance of our players,” Olguin said.

For those interested in competing in SSBU, UNM Esports offers free weekly tournaments in the Engineering Science and Computer Pod on campus every Wednesday starting at 5 p.m.

Mario Kart 8: 

The Mario Kart team has finally found its footing with a consistent cast of top-level players who are ready to maintain their spot at the top of New Mexico’s scoreboard. This team is made up of previous NMAA threats who brought their talents to UNM. We have Jaden “Donnie C” Lemaire, Fernando “Bean Senpai” Loya-Avila, C.J “SkinnyBones” White, and Linculn “G72n368Ure” Grisson who are part of an amazing squad looking to go above and beyond in competition. The team started their run in the group stages going undefeated, which made them the third seed in the bracket. They continued to show their expertise by winning each game they played on day 2 without dropping a single one. Their final match was the closest one where they defeated Organ Mountain by two points after being up 1-0 to close it out. They ended the tournament going 5-0 without dropping a single game against their opponents. Despite the run looking so easy they still showed off their excitement after each win. These players show what it looks like to be great friends rather than just teammates. 

Splatoon 3: 

After proving themselves enough already by winning a National Championship in the Collegiate Cephalopod Association League for Division 5 in the Fall 2023 semester, they were moved up to Division 3 following the dominant victory in December. Their current record before heading to Las Cruces was 3-0 showing other schools what was yet to come at the NMSU Invitational. They made their mark in the state by making NMSU their stomping grounds. Day one was spent winning 3-0 over Del Norte, giving them the rest of the day to rest and strategize for the next set of matches. All of day two was spent doing a lot of the same — winning. Players Sammy “Arter” Ortega, Leticia “Melody” Diaz, Zamari “Ziamontri” Ross, Axel “Yelow” Mata, and new additions to the Cherry team, Joseph “Pokejo1234” Keene and Raymond “Rayman1742” Sisneros are no strangers to winning with few losses and it is exactly what happened. On day two they ran through Los Alamos High School, who was undefeated in the NMAA League, 2-0, Hobbs High School 2-0, and finished the job by beating Los Alamos again in the Grand Finals; 3-0 completing the hat trick for us by helping sweep all 3 Nintendo Titles. This all couldn’t have been done without their Coordinator Fernando “Bean Senpai” Loya-Avila and coach Tony “HotDadDeluxe” Devens who have been with them since the debut of the team last Fall. They are a force to be reckoned with in New Mexico and beyond. 

League of Legends (LoL):

The League of Legends team was ready for the long road ahead of them having to play three games on day one before fighting their way through the bracket on day two. The team made it snappy on their first day of tournament play leaving the group stages undefeated and earning themselves the first seed of the bracket. Players Jayden “Stoner Queen’ Martin, Vy “Parkohcake” Nguyen, Cody “RakanUpTakedowns” Rezac, Adrian “Madrio501” Marin, and Ge “GodOfWar” Shi, went all the way to Grand Finals without losing a game before they faced off against NMSU. They won against Hobbs, Organ Mountain, and UTEP but unfortunately lost in a nail-biter game against NMSU, where they lost 1-2 ending their run with a solid second place. They look to get the runback at their next faceoff as they continue to grow as a team.

“We went in to win and it is safe to say we accomplished just that. We came out of this tournament winning the most titles out of all the schools that entered,” Olguin said. “Three Championships won and a runner-up shows the threat we bring to the competition in a variety of games and we look forward to all future competitions. We look to hold more tournaments here on campus ourselves eventually."