By BRETT MARSHALL
There were no soccer balls being kicked into the net. No footballs being thrown and caught on the field. No runners out for a long warmup and a cooldown. No volleyball spikes or digs. No golf balls being pounded on the driving range, and no tennis balls going back at forth at the courts.
Fall sports are over at Garden City High School and now those sights and sounds have been replaced by the thumping of a dribbling basketball, squeaky shoes as athletes quickly change direction in drills, a pair of coaches demonstrating a move on the mat, wrestlers learning new moves and some climbing ropes.
Fall has turned into winter, and the sports scene Monday reflected that as the Buffs and Lady Buffs teams, just like thousands of other boys and girls across Kansas, were able to have their first official practice for the 2012-2013 season.
At the new GCHS gymnasium, Buffs' basketball coaches — Jacy Holloway for the boys and David Upton for the girls — were greeted by approximately 70 and 50 prospects as the hoops season looms on the horizon for the teams' Nov. 30 season openers at Pratt. Three days of tryouts were slated by both coaches before they trimmed their varsity/junior varsity to between 20 to 25 players, while another approximately 25 (boys) and 15 (girls) will make the cut for the freshman squads.
The varsity Buffs are coming off a 9-12 overall record and 6-2 in the Western Athletic Conference, good for a runner-up finish.
"There were a lot of good things this summer so we're excited to see where things are as get prepared," said Holloway, entering his third year at the helm of the boys program. "We had a lot of good competition when we went to the Northern Colorado camp. I think we'll have to be a lot more balanced in our scoring this year, and the guys are gonna have to step up and do that for us to be successful."
Gone are leading scorer Jake Curran and other graduated starters Cameron Coyle, Gerardo Holguin and Braden Taylor. Returning are two returning senior starters — 6-4 forward Austin Terpstra and 5-10 guard Denton Keller. Part-time starters Bo Banner (6-1, Sr.) and Tristan Nanninga (6-0, Jr.) are also back along with reserves Evan Riggs (5-10, Sr.), Emilio Parr (6-3, Jr.) and Hunter Delgado (6-2, Jr.).
"We'll likely try to get the ball up and down the floor more quickly," Holloway said. "I think we'll be more guard-oriented at times but have a number of players who can play multiple positions which should give us more flexibility in what we can do."
For Upton, the Lady Buffs will look to returning starters Johna McClelland (6-2, Sr.), Taryn Tempel (5-8, Jr.) and Kennedy Brunson (5-4, Jr.) for leadership. Upton, whose team fashioned a 13-9 record, the best season mark since 1994, will also return varsity reserves in 5-11 sophomore Jaymie Bernbeck, 5-8 senior forward Jada Schmale and 5-4 sophomore guard Jessica Hinde.
"There's a nice number of girls back with experience and the nice thing is that only two are seniors," Upton said. "It's a combination of youth, but they have experience. Once we get to Thursday, we'll begin implementing things that we'll use when the season gets started."
And while Upton has a solid nucleus, he will be missing four other players who had considerable playing time a year ago. For various reasons, seniors Casey Curran (volleyball for college) and Abbey Campbell (golf for college) elected to bypass their final season, while juniors Alex Miller and Jamie St. Clair are focusing on other sports.
"We'd certainly have liked to have them all out, but they've all got reasons and you just have to go on," Upton said. "The girls we have are excited and committed to the season so we're looking forward to getting things going."
The public will get their first viewing of the Buffs next Tuesday when they hold their Buffs Breakout. The freshmen teams will take the court at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity girls at 6 o'clock and the boys at approximately 7 p.m.
Talk about starting out your first year with added pressure.
Just ask new Buffs' wrestling coach Carlos Prieto.
In the just-released pre-season rankings by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, the Buffs are ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. Derby, Junction City, Lawrence and Manhattan round out the top five.
Fifty-six wrestlers greeted Prieto and his staff on Day One of practice. And, it went well, according to the new coach who had assisted former head coach Monte Moser, who retired after five seasons. In his final season, Moser guided an injury-depleted squad to an eighth-place finish in the state tournament, and saw AJ Hurtado claim the 132-pound state title, the fourth Buffs' grappler in three years to win an individual crown.
"I told the kids today that the No. 1 ranking sounds nice, but we've not accomplished anything yet," Prieto said on Monday evening. "You've got to take care of business on the mat. Nothing else matters. I guess the ranking is a measure of who we have coming back, but it doesn't mean anything right now."
In addition to Hurtado, who will move up to 138, the Buffs return fifth-place state finisher Anthony Gardner at 170, and state qualifiers Trevor Kennedy (145), Chris Adler (152), Carlos Rodriguez (182) and Sammy Reyes (195). Prieto also welcomes back junior Matt Urritia, a state qualifier at 112 two seasons ago as a freshman, but who sat out the 2011-12 season with injuries.
Sophomore Tevin Briscoe, who battled injuries as well, returns at 132, along with Joey Arellano (152, Sr.), Zach Finch (160, So.), and juniors Luis Castaneda and Angel Gonzales, who will battle for the 220 slot.
Add in Prieto's son, Michael, a freshman at 106 who won the Kansas middle school championship last year, along with another freshman, Alec Castillo (126) and then getting Montana Fuller, a heavyweight transfer from Lakin who will be eligible in January, and the Buffs appear solid from top to bottom.
The younger Prieto, Briscoe, Hurtado, Kennedy, Adler, Gardner, Rodriguez, and Reyes are ranked in the top six of their respective weight classes.
The Buffs open their season on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Randall Raiders Duals in Amarillo, Texas.