By BRETT MARSHALL
For one of the few times through a season marked by injuries to nearly a half-dozen probable starters, the Garden City Buffaloes' wrestling team had a sub-par performance.
This time, it came on the final day of the prestigious Newton Tournament of Champions.
The Buffaloes, who had positioned themselves in second place on Friday's opening day, dropped to third in the team standings and saw just one of its four finalists capture an individual gold medal.
Grand Island, Neb., won the team title easily with 183 points while Manhattan slipped in front of the Buffs for second place, finishing with 138 points to 137.5 for coach Carlos Prieto's squad. Arkansas City and Mill Valley rounded out the top five teams with 127 and 126 points, respectively.
Senior Chris Adler garnered the team's lone first-place finish, and it was through an injury default in which Adler was leading his match by a 6-1 score in the second period against Jake Ellis of Mill Valley.
According to coach Prieto, Adler was kicked in the face by Ellis, opening up a wide gash under his right eye. They attempted to close the injury but were unable to within the allotted injury timeout. Adler was awarded a penalty point for Ellis' kick and then the officials called the match after Prieto indicated that Adler would be unable to finish the match.
"Chris really stepped up his performance and found another level during the tournament," coach Prieto said. "He's improved his techniqueand he's not rushing things so much. His confidence is up and he's just maturing as a wrestler. He was dominating the championship match before the injury."
The other three finalists — Efrain Sanchez at 106 pounds, Michael Prieto at 113 pounds and Sammy Reyes at 195 pounds — lost tough championship bouts.
"We just didn't have a very good round in the finals," coach Prieto said of his team's performance. "I thought Efrain wrestled really well, but we gave him (Logan Treaster of Newton) four points (a 9-4 decision). The atmosphere from the Newton fans was impressive and it gives the wrestlers a hometown edge. Still, Efrain had some big wins over state placers during the two days."
Michael Prieto lost for just the second time this season, and it was rival Logan Terrill who was the nemesis once again. The two met in December at the Kansas City Stampede and Prieto won that match, 6-0. The pair have met six times, with Prieto owning a 4-2 edge. The two met in the Rocky Welton finals in 2013, with Terrill winning a narrow decision in that one.
"I thought he (Terrill) was a little defensive and was waiting for us to make something happen," coach Prieto said.
The match was scoreless through the first two periods, and Terrill opted for the down position to start the third. He was able to secure a 2-point reversal before Prieto got a 1-point escape. But he couldn't get the necessary takedown for two points in the closing minutes of the period.
"We'll just go back to being who we are, as we were working on some new moves in the match," coach Prieto said. "Michael got away from things he does best, through no fault of his own. He and Terrill know each other so well, sometimes you have to try new things and see how they work."
In his 195-pound title match, Reyes came up against the defending state 6A champion in Seth Pesek of Gardner-Edgerton and came up on the short end of a 7-2 decision.
"It was a lot closer than the score would indicate," coach Prieto said. "He (Sammy) wrestled his tail off. He made a lot of shots but just couldn't finish. I thought Sammy showed a lot of heart and determination. He's just becoming a good, good wrestler."
Tevin Briscoe, who lost in Friday's quarterfinals, came back through the consolation side of the bracket to claim third place, going 4-0 on Saturday.
He won all of them by decisions, defeating Tylor Garcia of Dodge City (5-4), Justin Rieschick of Holton (4-0), Alec Hager of Norton (3-1) and Kevin Kissane of Maize South (3-1) in the third-place bout.
"He came back after losing a tough Friday match to a great wrestler from Grand Island," coach Prieto said of Briscoe, last year's 132-pound 6A state champ. "Coming back and wrestling like he did is the mark of a true champion. He beat state placer after state placer. I'm really proud of his effort."
Aaron Lozano was the only other placer for the Buffs, finishing eighth at 285 pounds. After splitting a pair of earlier matches on Saturday, Lozano lost a tough 2-1 tiebreaker to Ethan Jay of Colby.
The Buffs will travel to Liberal on Thursday for a 6 p.m. Western Athletic Conference dual with the Redskins.
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.