By BRETT MARSHALL
When Garden City and Colby collide in a high school wrestling dual, it usually results in a close match between two of the state's tradition-rich programs — Garden City in Class 6A and Colby in 4A.
Thursday night at The Garden was no different, but it was a strange night in some ways as both the Eagles, currently ranked fourth by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, and the Buffaloes, surprisingly ranked No. 1 in 6A, had open weights, resulting in forfeits.
In the final match of the night, with the team outcome on the line, Colby's Zell Bieberle scored a reverse and then a quick fall on Jason Carreon at the 285-pound weight class, and the Eagles headed north with a 35-31 victory over the Buffs. Bieberle was ranked No. 6 in Class 4A coming into the match.
Add in the fact that the Buffs were missing five of their regular varsity wrestlers — Tevin Briscoe at 113, Anthony Calderon at 120, Trevor Kennedy at 126, Chris Adler at 145 and Anthony Gardner at 170 — and it would be easy to see how the match might have had a different outcome.
"Both sides had people out of the lineup, so it was just a weird night," GCHS coach Monte Moser said. "I saw some good things out of several of the boys tonight."
Highlighting the Buffs' efforts were junior AJ Hurtado at 132 pounds, who garnered a 21-9 major decision over Michael Tubbs; Jon Heiman's 3-2 decision over Andrew Taylor at 160 pounds and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, who perhaps had the biggest effort of the night when he pinned Troy Quenzer at 182 pounds with 1:09 left in the third period.
"He tried a switch on me and then I got him on a switch back," Rodriguez said of his move to pin Quenzer. "He was hard to get back but on that move I took advantage of that setback and made it work."
Since the Rocky Welton Invitational two weeks ago, Rodriguez has won all three of his matches to even his season mark at 19-19 and feels like he is primed for a strong showing at the upcoming regional tourney.
"I've been improving each day and I just want to keep getting better and try to get a good seed for state and then place at state," Rodriguez said. "I've improved my takedown and then tried to get better with my work when I'm on top."
For Hurtado, a junior and currently ranked No. 1 in 6A, it was a high-scoring match in his 21-9 major decision of Tubbs. Hurtado was up 9-5 and 13-6 after the first two periods and then dominated the third period.
"He was a little scrambler," Hurtado said of Tubbs. "After that first period I just worked on stuff that I need help on and tried to better my technique. It's a good warmup for regional."
Hurtado had two matches in the Welton against nationally-ranked wrestlers and that caliber of competition has helped him prepare for the stretch run of the season.
"I like where I'm at," Hurtado said. "I've learned from those matches that I've got to be aggressive, wrestle all three periods and finish off the match. I've been working on getting a whole arsenal of moves and if one doesn't work, then use another one."
Moser said that all five of the wrestlers who were idle tonight are healthy and will be ready for regional. They all had been recovering from various injuries and were held out as a precautionary measure to make sure they're ready for the regional.
"If we stay healthy through practices next week, regional will be the first time all season that we have a full lineup that can go," Moser said. "If we're at full speed, I'll sure be interested to see how we do."
Moser said he was impressed with Heiman's match as the senior continues to work his way back into shape after missing the first two months of the season with a knee injury. He also said he was pleased with Rodriguez' continued improvement.
"Juan's come a long way and I'm enjoying watching him with his journey this season," Moser said of the junior. "I also thought AJ did some things in his match that I hadn't seen, so that's encouraging, too. Even though he lost, I thought Jason showed some better mobility tonight."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.