By BRETT MARSHALL
Luke Hayes had waited all Saturday to meet up with Clay Wilcox of Chaparral for the 285-pound championship match at the 54th Annual Rocky Welton Wrestling Invitational at The Garden.
The wait was worth it for the 6-foot-5-inch Scott City wrestler as he came up with the narrowest of wins, 1-0, over Wilcox, and walked off the mat with his unbeaten record intact at 21-0.
Hayes' triumph was the lone title garnered by area high schools at the prestigious Welton tournament. Only one other area wrestler — Hugoton's Colten Lissolo at 220 pounds — reached the finals.
Lissolo was handed a tough, 4-2, decision by Hays' Cash Drylie.
For the host Garden City Buffaloes, Saturday was once again a day with mixed results as the Buffs moved up the team scoring ladder, going from 12th to finishing ninth. Of the four wrestlers who advanced to the consolation finals, not one of them could come up with a victory and thus ended with fourth-place finishes.
And for historical purposes, it was the final day, final year for the Invitational, once known as the Garden City Invitational, to be held at The Garden. The 2013 edition will debut at the new Garden City High School gymnasium, with a number of exciting additions and changes that will be announced later.
Arkansas City claimed the team title with 194.5 points while Newton (169.5), Pine Creek, Colo. (160.5), Andale (144) and Ponderosa, Colo. (123) rounded out the top five. Garden City moved from 12th on Friday to finish ninth in the team chase with 99.5 points. Other area teams were Scott City in 13th (69.5), Hugoton at 15th (63.5), Ulysses in 17th (49) and Holcomb 27th (8). Western Athletic Conference rivals Hays (95.5), Dodge City (80.5), Great Bend (44) and Liberal (32) finished in 11th, 12th, 18th and 20th.
For Hayes, however, in the final match of the night, his anticipation of going against the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class 3-2-1A, the same class as the Beavers, was every bit as gratifying as the buildup to facing Wilcox.
"He's really a hard one to get in on," Hayes said of Wilcox after his triumph. "When I knew Chaparral was coming to the tournament, I got pretty excited. It gives me a chance to see how I match up with some of the best."
The two heavyweights battled to a scoreless first period. When Hayes won the flip to decide whether he would take the up or down position for the second period, he didn't hesitate.
"It was my first choice because I think at the heavyweight level, who gets the first escape will always have the edge," Hayes said.
The decision worked as he managed to get the 1-point escape just 20 seconds into the period. From there, it was both wrestlers trying to figure out a way to get a takedown, and neither one could.
In the third period, with Wilcox in the down position, Hayes was able to use his superior height to leverage against the Roadrunner wrestler. He managed to to keep the shorter Wilcox from slipping away to tie the score, or to earn any semblance of a 2-point reversal.
"I've just really been getting into the wrestling the last couple of weeks," said Hayes, who indicated he will sign a football letter-of-intent on Wednesday with Butler Community College in El Dorado. "This builds up my confidence, and it shows I can wrestle with the top ones in Class 3-2-1A."
For Garden City coach Monte Moser, the Buffs' performance provides him with the knowledge that many of his team's losses came against top-ranked opponents from other states, as well as other classifications.
"We'll not see this depth of quality, even at the state meet," Moser said at the conclusion of the meet. "We've learned a lot from the two days. We've got some things to work on, but I feel like if we've got everyone ready to go, we'll do well at regional and state."
Fourth-place finishers included freshman Tevin Briscoe at 113 pounds, Anthony Calderon at 120 pounds, Tyson Phillis at 138 pounds and Jon Heiman at 160 pounds. Heiman was returning from a knee injury sustained in the Buffs' final football playoff game in early November. After reaching the quarterfinals on Friday and losing to Emporia's Noel Torres, Heiman then won three matches on Saturday to reach the consolation final, again meeting up with Torres, falling by a slim 3-2 decision.
"I'm disappointed to lose this one, but it's been an awesome weekend to get back on the mat," said Heiman, a fifth-place state finisher his junior year. "Considering what I've gone through and that I had the flu earlier in the week, I'm surprised at how good I've felt, and I'm satisfied that I could place."
Briscoe's two losses in the tournament came at the hands of Alex Garcia of Dodge City, the last one by a 2-1 decision in the third-place bout. Ulysses' Jason Perez was fifth at 113 with a 5-1 decision over Chris Cos of Pine Creek, Colo.
Calderon dropped his consolation final in another close match, a 1-0 decision to Great Bend's Chris Burley.
Scott City's Clay Mulligan repeated as a third-place finisher, this time at 132 pounds, when he claimed a 6-4 decision over Anthony Monares of Newton. The Buffs' Phillis dropped a 10-3 decision to Wyatt Villers of Arkansas City in his consolation final match.
Hugoton's Lawson Fiss (145 pounds) and Patrick Weaver (152) both earned third-place medals. Fiss notched his win by virtue of a 3-2 decision over Derrik Ortiz of Pine Creek, Colo. Weaver grabbed his highest finish at the Welton with a 3-2 decision over rival Razzy Morales of Ulysses.
In one of the feature matches of the night, Abilene's Kane Kelly, the grandson of Rocky Welton, lost his 182-pound championship bout by a 5-1 decision to Miguel Montelongo of Canon City, Colo. It was Kelly's second loss of the year against 30 wins. Ulysses' Armando Sandoval took fifth with a default win over Corry Williams of Ponderosa, Colo.
The Outstanding Wrestler Ed Cramer Award was won by Geordan Martinez of Pine Creek, Colo. Martinez was a repeat winner of the award.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.