By BRETT MARSHALL
Despite having to go with an injury-depleted lineup in their opening tournament of the 2013-14 season, the Garden City Buffaloes wrestling team still managed a respectable third-place finish on Saturday at the Canyon, Texas, Randall Duals.
After going 4-1 in Friday's pool-play duals, the Buffs faced host Canyon Randall in Saturday morning's semifinals and came up on the short end of a 39-29 score before bouncing back to rally for a 38-37 victory over Amarillo, Texas, High School to claim the third-place finish.
The Buffs were without 106-pounder Efrain Sanchez, who did not meet team and school standards prior to the opening event while 160-pounder Brandon Derryberry failed to make weight as did 170-pounder Zeke Herrera.
In addition, the Buffs were without 126-pounder Alec Castillo and 285-pounder Montana Fuller, who are both recovering from injuries and are expected to return after the holiday break.
"As the weekend progressed, I think we got better," said second-year coach Carlos Prieto of the defending Class 6A Kansas champions. "The kids were buying into what we were instructing them, and some of those kids had no prior varsity experience. They gave us everything they had."
That point was clearly made in the final match with Amarillo when Sammy Reyes pinned Aaron Gallegos at 195 pounds; Benny Hernandez won a 2-1 decision at 220 pounds, and Aaron Lozano earned a forfeit to provide the one-point victory.
"It was a team effort and everybody gave everything they had," Prieto said. "Everybody knew we were a little banged up and missing some people, and I know we'll continue to get better."
Senior Chris Adler and sophomore Michael Prieto were the lone GCHS wrestlers to have a perfect record over the two days, going 7-0. Tevin Briscoe, freshman Jesse Nunez and Lozano finished 6-1 while the freshman Hernandez was 5-2.
"I thought Chris (Adler) really looked dominant," Prieto said of his veteran senior. "He didn't even get to the third period of a match. We've shored up some of his techniques from last year, slowed him down a little, and now he's showing that senior leadership that you want to see."
Prieto said that he was most encouraged by how much more physical his team wrestled than it had a year ago.
"We're head and shoulders ahead of where we were a year ago," Prieto said. "We're getting some people some valuable experience which will help us down the line."
The Buffs will open their home schedule on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. dual match against Scott City. On Saturday, the Buffs travel to the Clay Center duals and then close out their pre-holiday schedule on Dec. 20 and 21 at the prestigious Kansas City Stampede.
See results, Scoreboard, Page A11.