By BRETT MARSHALL
There is always a place for the small-class schools who compete at the annual Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament in Garden City each year.
That was apparent when Hugoton's Eagles placed three wrestlers into Friday night's semifinals at The Garden before they were defeated. The same with Ulysses as the Tigers also had several move through the tournament and ended with strong finishes. Scott City, too, had its moment.
Hugoton finished the two-day tournament with a solid 11th place finish in the 28-team field with 90.5 points, finishing just one spot behind Garden City. Not bad for a Class 4A school.
"We've had a good tournament," Hugoton coach Brent Mahan said before Saturday's consolation finals where he had three wrestlers competing. "Our program is coming along and our (league) schools are doing well."
The three teams, along with Holcomb, comprise four of the six teams who are in the new Great West Activities Conference along with Colby and Goodland, each of which has strong wrestling programs.
"The kids have been seeing good competition all season and this is really a great experience for them," Mahan said of Patrick Weaver, Cody Hill, and Colton Lissolo. All of those finished in fourth-place coming up short in their consolation final matches on Saturday.
Weaver lost a 10-2 decision to Jon Hunt at 140 pounds of Canyon Randal, Texas, the team champion; Hill was dealt a 2-0 loss at 145 pounds by Preston Weigel of Hays while Lissolo battled Luke Hayes of Scott City to a standoff through three periods before losing in overtime, 3-2.
For Hayes, a sophomore on the Beavers' team, the victory was somewhat bittersweet after seeing a lead slip away just at the buzzer in Friday night's semifinals.
"It's a good way to end the day because I really didn't wrestle with a lot of confidence today," Hayes said. "I've just got to keep working hard in the (weight) room and getting better with my technique."
Hayes said it was a small consolation that Liberal's Justin McPhail, who had squeaked out an 8-6 overtime win over Hayes on Friday, eventually claimed the 215-pound crown on Saturday.
"We're good friends and I'm happy to see him up there," Hayes said of the Liberal wrestler. "When you lose to a guy who's up there in first, it kinda helps."
Ulysses had two of its wrestlers claim third-place finishes, coming through the consolation bracket with a pair of decisions on Saturday following his heartbreaking overtime loss to Drew Romero of LaJunta, Colo., in Friday's semifinals. This time, against Miguel Barreras of Rio Rancho, N.M., Perez was in a tough match, scoreless through two periods.
From the down position, he got one point on an escape, fell behind by a 2-1 score with 25 seconds left in regulation and then won the match with a two-point reversal and three-point near fall in the final nine seconds.
"I just went out to the side and went for the reversal," Perez, a junior, said. "For the level of competition here, it's a good tournament for me. I had to see how he was going to wrestle and then I made a couple of moves that worked. It was a great win."
In Hines' 125-pound consolation final match, he was tied with Sam Jones of Ponderosa, Colo., in a scoreless first period. From the up position, he was able to score a three-point near fall in the second period and then got a two-point reversal in the third to put the match away.
"Top six feels pretty good," Hines said. "I kept putting pressure on him (Jones) and he wasn't putting it back to me. That last match was a pretty good fight. I used the cradle and got him with that twice. I don't use it a lot."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.