By BRETT MARSHALL
The two-week holiday break gave Garden City High School wrestling coach Carlos Prieto and his staff plenty of time to work on improving technique, the fundamentals of what helps develop championship teams.
But what the two-week break couldn't deliver for Prieto was a healthy roster when the Buffs returned to the mat on Saturday at the Scottsbluff, Neb., Duals.
Despite still missing some of his front-line wrestlers, the Buffs still managed to go 4-1, taking second to host Scottsbluff.
The Buffs had won all three of their pool play duals earlier in the day, beating West Point-Beemer, Neb. (48-15), Hot Springs (53-21), and Jefferson (68-10). They then won a hard-fought 38-27 victory over Nebraska City before dropping the final dual to Scottsbluff (38-31).
"I thought the kids who we had wrestle, wrestled well," Prieto said. "They did the things we had worked on, and with the lineup we had out there, it was a good day for us. It was good to see them get better."
There were the usual impressive performances from the Buffs' top wrestlers — Michael Prieto winning all four of his matches at 113 pounds; Chris Adler going 4-1 at 145 pounds, losing only once to one of Nebraska's top wrestlers at that weight; freshman Jesse Nunez perfect at 4-0, earning one technical fall, one major decision and a pair of decisions; Matt Marez finishing 3-1 at 170 pounds; freshman Benny Hernandez was impressive going undefeated in four matches, all by pins, at 220 pounds; and 285-pounder Aaron Lozano going 3-1, with all three of his wins by pin.
"Jesse (Nunez) continues to listen and is improving each week," Prieto said of his 152-pounder. "I'm pretty impressed with what he's doing and pleased with his effort."
Prieto also liked the performance of Hernandez and the fact he got all four wins via the pin route.
"He's a sponge right now," Prieto said of Hernandez' quick study in his first year at the varsity level. "He hit some moves that lighter weights tend to hit, and I think he's gonna be a good one."
Lozano, who has been filling in for the injured Montana Fuller, also had a strong day, Prieto said.
"His effort was outstanding, and his only loss (1-0 to Scottsbluff's Andrew Aratani) was to a humongous wrestler who is ranked in Nebraska," Prieto said.
The Buffs also were without 138-pound state champion Tevin Briscoe and 182-pound freshman Peyton Hill, both sidelined with injuries for the second straight meet. They have been without Fuller, who is recovering from a football injury, all season. Hill was injured in Kansas City and has now missed the last two events. Prieto said Briscoe will likely return to the lineup on Saturday when the Buffs head to the Norton Invitational. Hill and Fuller will sit this one out, too. Zac Finch, who suffered an ACL tear before the fall football season, is projected to possibly return in early February.
The Buffs did get Alec Castillo back, but he moved up a weight class to replace Briscoe, and managed to go 3-2 at 138 pounds.
"It was nice to have him back," Prieto said of his returning state medalist. "He was a little rusty, but he'll be back at 132 this next week and I think he'll just get better as he gets himself back into shape."
Results in Scoreboard, Page A11.