Frosh. Prieto makes GCHS wrestling history.
By BRETT MARSHALL
It would be easy to say that Michael Prieto is one smart wrestler.
When he finished his eighth grade year at Holcomb Middle School, Prieto decided he wanted to transfer to Garden City to begin his high school wrestling career.
It didn't hurt that the decision was helped by the fact his father, Carlos, had been hired in the spring of 2012 to become the new GCHS wrestling coach.
Plus, the younger Prieto wanted to compete at the Class 6A level (Holcomb is 3A), and he wanted to wrestle for his father.
"The Garden City program and schedule is just that much tougher," the younger Prieto said when comparing the two Finney County schools. "I've wrestled for my dad all the way through Kids Wrestling, and I just wanted to be able to have that chance again."
That move paid off handsomely, both for the Buffs' freshman and for the GCHS program.
On Feb. 23 at Wichita's Hartman Arena, the younger Prieto became the first freshman in school history to win a state individual championship and, with a strong group of teammates, paved the way for the Buffs' first Class 6A team state championship since 1999, when legendary coach Rocky Welton concluded his career.
"Winning the team championship was our main goal," said the younger Prieto, named The Telegram's Wrestler of the Year, after going 41-2 in winning the 106-pound division. "Also, just winning as a freshman, I still can't believe it. It amazes me."
Prieto said he had two goals at the outset of the season — to have the team win a state title and then add an individual title as well.
Prieto's first year of high school competition began in Amarillo, Texas, at the Randall Duals, where he won all six of his matches. It was on to the Clay Center Duals, where he was 5-0 and then a dual win at Lawrence High as a prelude to the tough Kansas City Stampede, which brings top teams in from nearly a dozen states.
It was there that Prieto suffered his first loss of the season, a 3-0 decision to Beau Guffey of Tuttle, Okla. Fast forward to the second semester of tournaments in Derby, Newton, the Rocky Welton in Garden City, four WAC matches and a dual at 4A power Colby, and the only blemish for Prieto was a 6-3 loss by decision to Logan Terrill of Arkansas City, who eventually claimed the Class 5A state title on the same day as Prieto did, and also at Hartman Arena.
"He's turned himself into a great wrestler," said coach Prieto. "His work ethic is second to none."
Prieto had only one close match at the state tournament, that an overtime victory against Logan Wood of Maize in the semifinals. In that match, he was trailing with 30 seconds left in regulation, but got the necessary points to tie it up and then won with a takedown just 30 seconds into the extra period.
"I felt pretty healthy at state," the younger Prieto said. "It was pretty neat to be the first freshman from Garden High to win, but it was even better that I was my dad's first state champion wrestler."
The Buffs return a strong nucleus of wrestlers for the 2013-2014 season and Prieto said he and his teammates are already looking forward to it.
"We've already begun talking about repeating," the younger Prieto said. "We want that second ring. Everything starts in the offseason. Last year, we did really well and we expect the same thing for next year. We can have another one under our belt."