By BRETT MARSHALL
The 27th Annual Scott City Wrestling Classic will be held on Saturday at the Scott City High School gymnasium.
And with it, will come some of the top wrestlers in southwest Kansas. The first session will begin at 10 a.m. with matches continuing into the early afternoon and the championship and consolation matches set to begin between 3 and 4 p.m.
Host Scott City, the defending champion and currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, is expected to be the favorite once again as the Beavers are loaded. In an earlier-season dual with 6A powerhouse Garden City (ranked No. 3 in 6A), the Beavers came up just short against the Buffaloes, 36-34.
Lakin coach Larron Hurst sees the Scott City tourney as an opportunity to improve his wrestlers' seeding placements.
"We'll have some wrestlers that we have lost to early in the year that we will see Saturday." Hurst said. "It should make it pretty interesting if we can win a couple of those to put us back to 1-1."
One of Hurst's top wrestlers is Dalton Davis, ranked No. 4 in Class 3-2-1A, at 130 pounds. Davis wrestled at 119 pounds a year ago en route to claiming the first place medal at the tournament.
"He's been wrestling the best for us and I think has a good chance at winning his weight," Hurst said.
For Sublette coach Bill Kraber, he will be taking a short-handed team to Scott City since his heavyweight — Chris Villaneuva — and 130-pounder Logan Koehn — are both out of state to a family Army boot camp graduation in Georgia.
"It's a tough tournament for us," Kraber said. "We think by the time we get to regionals, we'll have a number of wrestlers with a chance to qualify for state."
Kraber is now in his fifth year of coaching the Larks, having started the program from scratch. Sublette and Wichita County are two of the few Class 2A schools in the area to have a program and the Larks currently sport 13 wrestlers on their roster.
"It's the most we've had and we're now getting more of the football-type wrestler out," Kraber said. "I think we've looked at what a Smith Center can do with football and wrestling and I think we will continue to grow."
Kraber's most likely medal candidate for Saturday will be junior Royce Williams at 152-pounds. Williams was runner-up a year ago and will be among the favorites in the weight class.
"He's got a lot of good skills, is quick and strong," Kraber said.
Ulysses will take a strong placed contingent to the Classic as well. The Tigers placed fifth at the Southwest Classic in Liberal last weekend with 152-pounder Josh Rodriguez (ranked No. 3 in 4A) winning his division and comes in with a 13-1 season mark. Jason Perez (103) and Razzy Morales (130) were runners-up in Liberal and bring records of 13-3 and 12-4, respectively, to Scott City.
Junior Robbie Hines, though, is the top performer thus far for coach Joe Gonzales as he is unbeaten in 17 matches at 119 pounds. Hines is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A.
Hines may likely face Scott City's Francisco Antillon for the title as Antillon, a senior, is 18-3. Antillon won the 112-pound division a year ago.
But in the final analysis, it likely is Scott City's tournament. At 103 pounds, sophomore Clay Mulligan (ranked No. 2 in 4A) is 18-0; Dillon Stucky (No. 4) at 140-pounds is 14-1; Dakota Hayes (No. 4) at 145 is 19-0; defending champion sophomore Luke Hayes (No. 4) is 16-3 at 189 pounds and senior Calvin Erven is 14-5 at 215 pounds. Erven, the runner-up last year, may battle Cimarron's Tyler White, the reigning 215-pound champion, for the title once again. White, ranked No. 3 in Class 3-2-1A, is 10-2 for the season.
Cimarron's John Shaughnessy, last year's champion at 160, returns to defend his title and brings a 12-3 season mark into the tournament. Holcomb's Levi Koehn comes in with a lot of momentum for the Longhorns as he won at 160-pounds at the Southwest Classic.
"I really want to win this one," said Koehn (14-4), who placed third in 2009. "My footwork is a lot better and I've been working really hard on technique. There's some quality wrestlers there and I'm excited about it."
Teams competing include Scott City, TMP-Marian, Cimarron, Holcomb, Wichita County, Sublette, Lakin and Ulysses.