By BRETT MARSHALL
A year ago, the Garden City High School wrestling team finished dead last in the 36-team field at the Kansas City Stampede, considered one of the top prep tournaments in the country.
This time, on the heels of five wrestlers finishing in the top 10 of their respective weight classes, the Buffs finished 19th among the 36 teams, which represented nine states. The Buffs finished with 258 points, while Collinsville, Okla. took first with 460.5 points.
"I thought we wrestled well for the most part," said GCHS coach Carlos Prieto. "I thought we wrestled better (Saturday) than we did on Friday. We had a few nagging injuries, but I thought those boys sucked it up and battled through some of those."
The top finisher for the Buffs was junior Chris Adler, who placed fourth at 152 pounds. Adler (12-4) advanced to the semifinals with a pair of Saturday wins, a major decision (12-3) over Zane McLaughlin of Allen, Texas, and a 3-1 deicison over Landon Gotschall of Omaha (Neb.) Skutt. In his semifinal match, Adler lost a tough 6-2 deicison to Brennan Johnson of Excelsior Springs, Mo., before getting pinned by Colston DiBlasi of Park Hill, Mo. in the third-place match.
"Last year, he got knocked out of the tournament by injuries so to see him come back this year and wrestle so well was really good to see," Prieto said of Adler. "He did a great job and knocked off some good kids along the way."
Freshman Michael Prieto took fifth place, losing his first match of the season in the quarterfinals before bouncing back to win three straight matches, including an 8-0 major decision over Sean Hosford of Park Hill in the fifth-place bout. Prieto's lone setback in the two-day meet came at the hands of Beau Guffey of Tuttle, Okla., a 3-0 decision. He came back to post wins over Zach Durbin of Seckman, Mo. (4-2 dec.) and 2012 Rocky Welton champion Logan Terrill of Arkansas City (4-2 dec.).
Senior Trevor Kennedy finished eighth in the 145-pound division by going 2-3 on Saturday. Kennedy recorded two wins by major decision, lost one by major decision, lost another by a pin and lost another by technical fall (15 points).
Sophomore Tevin Briscoe went 3-2 on Saturday and ended in ninth place for the Buffs. Briscoe won his opening championship round bout (pin of Frank Barajas-DeLoa of Omaha Skutt before getting pinned himself by Nate Rodriguez of Neosho, Mo. He then lost a decision before finishing off his day with two wins — a 4-3 decision over Griffin Riley of Collins Hill, Ga., and a pin of Kendall Biddle of Arkansas City.
"I thought he wrestled great, but Tevin was a little disappointed not to make the medal stand (eighth or higher)," Prieto said. "He's got some things he wants to work on and clean up some things, and he'll just keep getting better."
Senior AJ Hurtado, last year's 126-pound state champion in Class 6A, had a tough bracket at 138 pounds, but managed to finish 10th, also going 2-3 on Saturday. Amazingly, all three of his losses came via the pin route, while he won a major decision and then another by decision.
"AJ really found a tough, deep bracket," Prieto said. "He did some good things, but like most of the other boys, we have things to work on to get better."
Prieto had told his wrestlers that in all probability, nobody on the team would finish the first month of the season with an unblemished record, and he proved to be correct.
"This was a great learning environment for our kids," Prieto said of the K.C. event. "Mentally, I thought we got tougher and that's one of the areas that we've worked on. We're still not there — we're not as tough as I want, but we're getting there."
One of the other bright spots on Saturday was the performance of senior Anthony Gardner, who had gone 0-3 on Friday, but bounced back by going 4-0 and winning the consolation side of his bracket at 170 pounds. Gardner won three of those matches by pinning his opponents and won the other by a 5-4 decision.
"He wasn't the same kid that he was on Friday," Prieto said of Gardner. "He reverted back to making the same mistakes on Friday, but he wrestled for himself and that's the Anthony that I wanted to see. Couldn't have been more proud of what he did."
In other championship bracket results, Zac Finch placed 14th at 160 pounds; Juan Carlos Rodriguez was 16th at 182 pounds; Sam Reyes was 14th at 195 pounds.
Next up for the Buffs will be a 7 p.m. Thursday dual at Scott City, where they will take on the Beavers, the defending Class 3-2-1A state champions. That will conclude their pre-holiday schedule, and they will resume competition on Jan. 4 and 5 at the Derby Invitational.
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.