By BRETT MARSHALL
Three Garden City area wrestlers will battle for top honors today at the 55th Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament at The New Garden.
Hugoton's Patrick Weaver (145 pounds) and Lawson Fiss (152 pounds), along with Scott City's Alex Kough (126 pounds), all advanced to the championship matches of the prestigious 29-team tournament on Friday.
Those two schools, with the finalists leading the way, concluded Day 1 in 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the team race with 60.5 and 54 points. Ulysses was 14th with 52 and had the other area semifinalist in Armando Sandoval at 182 pounds. He came up short in a tough 7-1 decision setback to top-seeded Levi Eck of Andale.
The tournament concludes today with consolation bracket matches slated to start at 9 a.m., while championship matches were to start at approximately 4 p.m.
Weaver (23-2) was dominant in a 15-0 technical fall victory over Chris Thompson of Canyon-Randall, Texas, while his senior teammate Fiss was claiming an 8-4 decision over Zack Duwe of Chaparral, an opponent he had split two matches with in the past three weeks.
Kough, meanwhile, overcame a brief moment when he was stunned in a head collision with top-seeded PT Garcia of Bear Creek, Colo., in the opening period.
But the Scott City senior bounced right back, took control of the match after trailing 2-0, and then recorded an escape and takedown for a 3-2 lead before pinning Garcia with just 28 seconds left in the first period.
"It's my first time back since my freshman year," said Kough, who battled injury and illness each of the past two years. "I think I hit the hardest part of his head with my eye, but I was able to get some fluids in me and felt better. I was able to get some air back in and just then went about doing what I do best."
That meant a single move into a fireman's, which he said was his signature move.
"Doing well here takes a lot of determination," Kough said. "It's one of the toughest, if not the toughest tournament we compete in all year. There's a lot of variety here with different states and it makes it tough to find new ways to beat some one."
Kough will take on No. 2 seeded Quinton Harrison of Newton, a 6-1 decision winner over Ethan Coombs of Centauri, Colo.
For Weaver and Fiss, reaching the finals is a first for both of the Eagles' seniors. Finishing third and fourth a year ago seemingly has set them up for bigger and better things in their final appearance at the Welton.
"It's a big tournament for us," Weaver said. "This is fun stuff. It's probably tougher than state (4A). I'm just trying to have fun and not overthink things when I'm out there. I tend to get cautious, especially in close matches. I'm just pretty happy at the moment and we'll see how things go tomorrow."
Weaver recorded a pair of pins in addition to his technical fall victory and will now face top-seeded Cody Eastman of Arkansas City (31-3) in the championship match.
Fiss, meanwhile, will meet another Arkansas City contender in top-seeded Wyatt Villers, who took a 9-2 decision from Ryan Rino of Piedra Vista, N.M., in the other semifinal.
Fiss led in his semifinal match against Duwe by a 6-2 margin at the end of two periods and then closed it out with a solid third period effort.
"It's really cool. I'm very excited," Fiss said afterward. "Especially with Patrick getting to the finals, too. I remember coming here as a sophomore and just thinking how good everyone was. To make the finals, now, wow! It's a huge accomplishment and now I'll just go out and do my best and see what happens."
Results in Scoreboard, Page D2.