By BRETT MARSHALL
For the second consecutive weekend, the Garden City Buffaloes made a strong case in support of their No. 1 Class 6A Kansas ranking.
This time, it was a runaway victory on Saturday at the Clay Center Invitational where the Buffs routed No. 2-ranked Class 6A Junction City, 176-118, while Holton and No. 1-ranked Class 3A Norton were a distant third and fourth with 108 and 94 points.
"I'm pleased with the boys and right now they're doing everything we're asking of them," said first-year Buffs' coach Carlos Prieto. "I told them before hand that there will be some L's (losses) this weekend, but the competition would be much better than we had at Randall (Texas Duals)."
The tournament format was dependant upon the number of wrestlers in each weight class, and while some of the Buffs were placed into pool matches where the top finishers battled for that division title, others were involved in a round-robin format to determine their champions.
Four GCHS wrestlers brought home division titles with defending state champion AJ Hurtado leading the way at 4-0 to claim the 138-pound division and earn the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler Award. Freshman Michael Prieto went 5-0 in claiming the 106-pound title; Tevin Briscoe was a perfect 4-0 at 132-pounds and Trevor Kennedy also went 4-0 to win at 145 pounds.
"It was a step up and we really went to Clay Center because we wanted to see where we were with Junction City," Prieto said. "We went head-to-head with them on several matches. We beat them a few, they beat us a few, but this gives us a chance to work on things for down the road."
Chris Adler went 3-1 and finished runner-up at 152 pounds while Aaron Lozano posted a 1-1 record to finish second at 285-pounds, while Sammy Reyes finished 4-1 and second at 195 pounds. Third-place finishers were earned by Matt Urrutia at 120 pounds (3-1); Zac Finch at 160 pounds (4-1) and Juan Carlos Rodriguez at 182 pounds (2-2). Fourth-places were taken by Efrain Sanchez at 113 pounds (2-2), Randall Long at 170 pounds (1-2) and Samson Aldaco at 220 pounds (2-2). Alec Castillo took fifth place at 126 pounds (2-2). The Buffs were without their normal 170-pounder, Anthony Gardner, who was taking his ACT exams on Saturday.
"I really thought Zac Finch wrestled especially well," Prieto said. "He beat the Junction City kid (Jeryl Denton) for third place (5-4 decision). It's a big confidence booster for him."
Prieto also said that Briscoe had a big win during his day by knocking off 2012 3-2-1A state champion John Risewick of Norton, 7-5.
"That went to overtime, and it was just a great match by Tevin," Prieto said.
The Buffs will have a busy upcoming schedule this week as they first travel to Lawrence for a Thursday night dual with Lawrence High before heading into Kansas City for the Friday-Saturday Kansas City Classic. The Classic brings in 30-plus teams from all over the United States, and it will be by far the toughest tournament of the year, according to Prieto.
"Easily the toughest tournament in the Midwest," Prieto said of the tournament, where the Buffs finished last a year ago in their first appearance at the tourney. "I think the boys will be more ready this time around. Their eyes will be more wide open. We're not gonna finish dead last."
Still, as he tells his team each day, there is much work to be done.
Following the weekend action in Kansas City, the Buffs will close out their pre-holiday schedule with a dual at defending 3-2-1A state team champion Scott City on Dec. 20.