By BRETT MARSHALL
At arguably the most difficult tournament in which they will compete all season, it was no surprise that the Garden City Buffaloes wrestling team was having more than its share of tough matches at Friday's opening night of the Kansas City Stampede.
So, in looking for those slivers of positive news, head coach Carlos Prieto was able to identify senior Chris Adler, freshman Peyton Hill, sophomore Michael Prieto, and senior Sammy Reyes as the top performers of the first day.
As far as team standings went, the Buffs were in 23rd place with 79.5 points, well back of leader Archer, Ga., which had 158.5 points. The only Kansas school ahead of the Buffs was Class 5A defending champion Arkansas City, which had 90.5 points and stood in 15th place.
"Two years ago we came here and finished dead last, so we know the tournament is tough," Prieto said late Friday night. "It's a real challenge for the boys, but this is how we get better. We came back last year, improved, and then won the state championship. So, we use this as a positive learning experience."
Adler, wrestling at 145 pounds, claimed his first three matches, a 7-2 decision over Josh Rozell of Granite City, Mo.; a pin of Alex Svec from Dowling Catholic at 0:48; and a 14-6 major decision of Cody Rains of Neosho, Mo. Adler's closest match came late Friday when he edged Bryce Mercer of Oak Grove, Mo., 2-1.
"Chris continues to improve his skills by just staying in the proper position," Prieto said of his senior. "He had the one close match, but otherwise he really did a great job, as did all the kids."
Freshman Hill, son of GCHS football coach Brian, was dominant in his first three matches, earning wins by pinning each of his opponents. Hill, competing at 182 pounds, pinned Jared Jaeger of Dowling Catholic at 3:02 of the second period; pinned Austin Fry of Ponca City, Okla. at 3:12 of the second period; and pinned Zac Courtoise of Kearney, Neb. at 1:46 of the first period. In his final match of the night, trailing in the third period, Hill suffered an ankle injury and was forced to default the match. Prieto said Hill would not wrestle in Saturday's final round of matches.
"Peyton had been doing a great job, pinning his earlier opponents," Prieto said of his freshman. "We don't want to risk further injury, so we'll let him get it healed up over the holidays."
The younger Prieto, who captured the 106-pound state title last year, had three matches on day one of the tournament. He pinned Austin Burdick of Ponca City, Okla., at 3:36 of the second period, and then won by technical fall, 17-0, over Jet Tryon of Oak Grove, Mo., at 2:10 of the second period. Prieto received a bye in the fourth round, and then was dominant again in the fifth round with an 8-0 major decision over Charles McNeal of Waynesville, Mo.
"All his matches he got bonus points by pins or major decisions, and while he's struggling to maintain his strength by wrestling at 113, he's doing a great job," coach Prieto said of his son.
Reyes, at 195-pounds, had received an opening-round bye and then earned a 6-3 decision over Brandon Adams of Kearney, Neb. before recording a 7-2 decision of Alexander Chivetta of Holt in his second outing of the day. In his final match of the night, Reyes won a 9-0 major decision over Devin Savage of Farmington, N.M.
"Sammy was impressive," Prieto said. "He won his matches convincingly.
The Friday competition was contested in pool play matches, and Michael Prieto, Adler and Reyes will now be placed into a 16-man bracket, which gets under way at 9 a.m. today. Those wrestlers could have as many as four or five matches before the meet concludes.
Overall, coach Prieto was pleased with his team's performance, especially considering that he didn't have an entry at 132 or 138 pounds. Tevin Briscoe, last year's 132-pound state champion, is sitting out the tournament after suffering an injury at last week's Clay Center duals. Briscoe is expected back after the holiday break.
The Buffs will conclude the Stampede competition today, and then will be idle until Jan. 4 when they compete at the Scottsbluff, Neb., tournament.