By BRETT MARSHALL
Senior AJ Hurtado and freshman Michael Prieto were the lone Garden City High School wrestlers to advance to today's championship matches at the 50th Newton Tournament of Champions.
Meanwhile, the Buffs found themselves sitting in third place with 108 points, well back of first-day leader Grand Island, Neb., with 177 points and Class 5A Arkansas City's 139.
That, in a nutshell, reflect the mixed emotions for GCHS coach Carlos Prieto.
Hurtado, the Class 6A champion at 132 pounds last season, advanced to the title match against top-seeded Brogan Humphrey of Fredonia by defeated Western Athletic Conference rival Dane Edwards in a 4-1 decision. Hurtado went 3-0 for the day and improved his season record to 22-4. Humphrey will bring a 20-0 record into the match.
Prieto went 4-0, giving up just one point while improving his season record to 26-1. His semifinal victim was David Mainus of Colby, in an 8-1 decision. In his earlier matches, Prieto had pinned Xavier Kenney of Lawrence; won by technical fall over Marty Verhaege of Blue Valley Southwest, 17-0 at 4:12; and won a major decision over Braden Dipman of Derby by a 9-0 count. Prieto has given up just 16 points all season.
Hurtado, despite never having lost to Edwards, was ranked No. 2 in Class 6A while Edwards held the No. 1 ranking. Prieto said he hopes that will now change.
"AJ really showed a lot tonight," Prieto said. "He wrestled a smart, aggressive match and proved that he's the No. 1 wrestler in 6A."
With respect to the younger Prieto, the coach's son Michael, the 106-pounder continues to be impressive. He is now 26-1 for the season, and will face a familiar foe in today's championship match in Arkansas City's Logan Terril. He has already beaten Terril twice this season, once in Kansas City at the Stampede and in last week's title bout at the Derby Invitational.
"Even though we've beaten him twice, we know it will be a tough match," Prieto said of Michael's upcoming bout. "You never take anything for granted, but Michael continues to be a constant for us as does some of our others."
Just like in many other sports, close doesn't count, and in four quarterfinal matches, and two semifinal matches, the Buffs came up on the short end of the score.
The heartbreaks for the Buffs came at 132-, 145-, 152-, 160-, 170- and 195 pounds.
Sophomore Tevin Briscoe lost his 132-pound quarterfinal match by a 3-1 decision to Sawyer Like of Blue Valley Southwest; at 145 pounds, Trevor Kennedy lost a 2-0 decision to Davis Matthews of Manhattan; Chris Adler suffered a 1-0 decision loss to Trenton Wilson of Liberal; and Anthony Gardner suffered a 4-3 decision setback to Andrew Taylor of Colby.
In semifinal matches, Zac Finch was blanked 4-0 by Noel Torres of Emporia, while Sammy Reyes was pinned at 5:34 of the third period by Chris Reis of Grand Island, Neb.
"Zac's knee locked up in one of his early matches, but still came back and won three matches before losing to a good kid from Emporia," Prieto said. "He showed a lot of toughness, a lot of heart out there today. That's what I like to see in the kids. I want them to get mentally tougher. Win or lose, when we leave the mat, I want them thinking that I'll get the guy the next time."
Prieto said Reyes had recorded a takedown of Reis in the opening period, but then got caught and was pinned late in the match.
"Sammy's getting better and he's opening up his offense more and that's what we want to see," Prieto said of his 195-pounder.
Prieto said he expected his team to rally in today's cross-bracketing consolation matches with the goal of getting as many of his top wrestlers into the third-fourth place matches.
"It's important to keep our focus and know that every match is important and there's still things to compete for," Prieto said. "We'll give it our best shot. I can't fault the kids for their effort."
Results in Scoreboard, Page D2.