Freshman Prieto, soph. Briscoe garner individual golds for Buffs
By BRETT MARSHALL
PARK CITY — Michael Prieto and Tevin Briscoe share many things in common.
They have grown up wrestling together, and have been mat partners through youth wrestling and now as teammates at Garden City High School.
On Saturday at Hartman Arena, Prieto, a freshman, and Briscoe, a sophomore, added another common denominator to their list — Class 6A individual state champion.
The two youthful members of the Buffaloes' team were the springboard to helping pave the way for Garden City's first state team championship since 1999.
"From the get-go on Friday to the championship matches (Saturday), Michael and Tevin did a great job of creating a lot of positive atmosphere and momentum for the team," head coach Carlos Prieto, father of the younger Prieto, said near the end of the tournament and prior to the trophy presentation. "They've both been rock solid all season long, and what they did here today was just a carryover of what they've done all season."
Prieto completed his storybook season by recording a 7-0 whitewashing of Doug Newcomb of Olathe Northwest, ending his rookie high school year with a stellar 41-2 record. Briscoe, who was equally impressive and scored the most points for the Buffs of any of the 13 qualifiers, easily dominated Dylan Beckner of Wichita Northwest, a 13-3 major decision, to win his title.
For Briscoe, the state title completed a season full of redemption as it was at the 2012 regional tournament where he failed by 1.5 pounds to make his 113-pound weight and was not allowed to wrestle, thus missing out on a chance to compete at state despite having one of the best records in the state (24-5).
"I've been waiting a year for this," Briscoe said after dismantling Beckner in the finals. "I've trained hard, wrestled and just felt like I needed to redeem myself after last year. I've proven that I was the best in my weight at state."
Briscoe scored 28 points during his four wins in the two-day event, pinning his first two opponents on Friday before coming back Saturday morning to win an impressive 12-2 major decision over Tanner Madl of Stilwell-Blue Valley in the semifinals.
"I think I was feeling a little jittery in my stomach near the end," Briscoe said. "I was feeling pretty pumped, especially after watching Michael win his final match. We're the young ones, and he's really encouraged me. We've wrestled side-by-side each other, and it's pretty amazing that we both won."
In his title bout, Briscoe scored a 2-point takedown halfway through the first period and then earned two more points on a near-fall to go up 4-0, when the opening two minutes ended. Another takedown and a penalty point assessed to Beckner made it 7-0 at the end of the second and the rout was on. All Briscoe had to do was avoid making a mistake and the title was his.
"Once I got some momentum on my feet, I was able to find his weakness and then just tried racking up points for the team," Briscoe said. "I didn't overlook him. I had wrestled him in the regionals (a 15-1 win), but I just wanted to make sure I wrestled my own match. It's been a long year, but this made the wait worth it. It's just such a great feeling to be going home with a team championship and a gold medal."
Briscoe's 40-4 season record enabled him to finish his first two years with a 64-9 won-loss mark. He recorded 14 pins, 5 technical fall wins and 4 major decisions.
For the younger Prieto, the season has been nothing short of sensational. Having enjoyed success through youth wrestling and middle school competition, he transferred to GCHS so he could wrestle for his father and first-year Buffaloes' head coach.
Coming in with such high hopes and lofty expectations easily could have sidetracked many a wrestler, but Prieto kept a low-key approach throughout the season, sustaining his only losses at the prestigious Kansas City Stampede in mid-December and in the finals of the Rocky Welton Invitational in Garden City in late January.
Otherwise, he was a buzz-saw. Technically sound, Prieto had only 23 points scored against him all season. He had five wins by technical fall (15-point victory margin) and recorded 19 pins. He had another five wins by major decision (8 to 14 points).
And while Prieto was his usual dominating force in the finals, scoring all seven of his points in the opening 2-minute period, it was the semifinal bout that nearly cost him a chance at the gold medal.
In that Saturday morning match, Prieto trailed Landon Wood of Maize, another highly-regarded freshman, by a 2-0 count with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. But Wood, after an earlier warning, was assessed a 1-point penalty and Prieto's opportunity arrived. From the down position, he managed an escape with just 0:06 seconds remaining, tying the score at two, sending the battle into a one-minute overtime. Twenty-six seconds in, Prieto swiftly scored a takedown of Wood and the match was over just like that, a 4-2 thriller for Prieto.
"I probably did a disservice to Michael earlier today," coach Prieto said at the end of the day. "We preach to our kids all the time to be poised. If we as coaches show that we're a little nervous, the boys will pick up on that. I think I probably did that, and it may have affected Michael. But he managed to come through it, but I felt responsible. That's the hard part of separating being a father and a coach at the same time."
For the younger Prieto, he said there had been pressure all along, and that he felt it in the semis.
"Everybody was wanting me to get to the finals," the freshman said. "He (Wood) beat me in kids wrestling, and I just knew I needed to get that win. I was probably more nervous than I had been all year."
Following that nerve-racking triumph, it was time for the younger Prieto to relax and go for gold.
"My dad just said go out and wrestle this one for yourself," Michael said of the advice given by his coach. "That's what I did. I feel like I'm on top of the world. It's like winning the lottery. This is mine. Everybody wins and then getting the team title, it's just like an amazing feeling."
And while there was plenty of joy for the youngest Buffs, it was a little bit of individual heartbreak for the three senior finalists — AJ Hurtado (138), Trevor Kennedy (145) and Anthony Gardner (170) — each of whom came up short in their title bids.
For Hurtado, who had won the 2012 state title at 132 pounds, he was facing his nemesis from Dodge City in fellow senior Dane Edwards. The two had split earlier matches, with Hurtado winning 4-1 at the Newton Tournament of Champions and Edwards claiming a 3-1 decision in a Western Athletic Conference dual. This match, though, was not like either of those. Edwards dominated, taking a 2-1 lead after one period, extending it to 5-1 in the second and then scoring six more points in the final period for an 11-1 major decision.
"I didn't do what I normally would do and didn't wrestle well," Hurtado said. "He caught me and took advantage. I've had a pretty good career, and it would have been nice to have two state championships. It's hard, especially since he's at a rival school. He got that first takedown and then was just more aggressive. If there's any consolation, it's that I'm on a state team champion, and that makes up for a lot. It's pretty good to go out with an individual and team state championship."
Kennedy was right in the thick of his match with Andrew Millsap of Junction City, who had just one loss on his record. It was 2-1 after one period and the same after the second period. Kennedy was hit with a 1-point penalty for stalling and then gave up a 2-point reversal for the final 5-1 score.
Gardner, who earned his second state medal after a fifth-place finish his junior year, was involved in a high-scoring, free-for-all match with Laphonso McKinnis of Shawnee Mission Northwest. Gardner fell behind early, trailing by as much as 9-2 in the first period, before rallying to tie the score at 9-9 in the second. He was trailing 12-9 going in to the third period, before McKinnis secured a 16-11 decision.
"The seniors provided great leadership for us all season," Prieto said of the three and other Buffs' upperclassmen. "They've shown the younger ones how to work and how to compete. Without them, we wouldn't be where we are as a team."