Buffs' wrestlers capture 6A regional title
By BRETT MARSHALL
For the entirety of the 2012-13 wrestling season, Garden City Buffaloes first-year coach Carlos Prieto has emphasized confidence to his team.
That has been an overriding theme despite the fact the Buffs were preseason ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. It continued to be the theme as the Buffs went through a meat-grinder schedule, winning a few tournaments, placing high in others.
But that confidence-building effort found its way to the top on Saturday when the Buffs rolled to the Class 6A regional championship at Hutchinson, scoring 217.5 points to easily out-pace runner-up Derby's 183. Wichita Northwest was a distant third at 139 points in the eight-team field.
The Buffs were able to qualify 13 of their 14 wrestlers for the state 6A tournament, which begins Friday at Hartman Arena in Wichita.
All in all, it was a day that sets the table for the state tournament, the long-range goal of a state championship looming on the horizon for the Buffs.
"We've put ourselves in position to have a go at the state championship," Prieto said. "I'll take what we did Saturday. I knew there would be a couple of weight classes where we'd have to wrestle exceptionally well to get our guys qualified, and they did just that."
Prieto said that getting Efrain Sanchez (4th at 113 pounds), Alec Castillo (3rd at 126 pounds)and Samson Aldaco (4th at 220 pounds) to Wichita will play a big role in how the Buffs fare come state tournament.
"All the guys we expected to do well, did well," Prieto said.
The Buffs garnered six individual titles out of the 14 weight classes, and in head-to-head matches with Derby, the No. 3-ranked team in 6A, the Buffs went 5-3. Overall, the wrestlers compiled a 33-11 won-loss record for the day.
"Samson (Aldaco) was not seeded in the top four and he made it," Prieto said. "Him winning his first match made his route to qualifying that much easier and that's something we emphasized with the boys prior to the tournament."
Prieto said Castillo's third-place finish at 126 pounds reflected a season-long improvement for the freshman.
"He's really come a long way and the other kids were ecstatic about how Alec was wrestling," Prieto said. "He hit some shots, made good transitions from move to move. He's been the epitome of someone buying into our system. I'm really proud of his performance."
The six individual champions included Michael Prieto at 106 pounds; Tevin Briscoe at 132 pounds; AJ Hurtado at 138 pounds; Trevor Kennedy at 145 pounds; Anthony Gardner at 170 pounds and Sammy Reyes at 195 pounds.
Prieto earned his title with a 4-0 decision of Braden Dipman of Derby while Briscoe got his with a dominant 7-4 decision over Fernando Nuno of Maize.
Hurtado had the strangest route to the regional title, winning his first match of the day by a 16-0 technical fall score and then didn't wrestle again as Jarred Suppes of Derby in the semifinals and Dane Edwards of Dodge City both deaulted due to injury and didn't take on Hurtado, last year's 132-pound state champion. Edwards had beaten Hurtado earlier in the season in a dual match. Ironically, Edwards had won decisively in his two earlier matches and Suppes had pinned his first opponent. Suppes did, however, default by injury his third-place match against Dylan Brazell of Wichita Northwest.
Kennedy continued his impressive season with a15-9 decision over top-seeded Joe Thompson of Campus. Gardner also turned in an impressive performance for the day, earning a 4-0 in the finals over top-seeded Jose Santillon of Derby.
"Both Trevor and Anthony were impressive and did a great job of wrestling all day," Prieto said. "It's that kind of effort we'll need at the state tournament."
Reyes, another performer who has steadily improved throughout the season, pinned No. 2-seeded Blake Bradford of Derby at the 3:45 mark of the match in the second period.
Two Buffs finished second as Chris Adler at 152 pounds and Juan Carlos Rodriguez at 182 pounds came up short in their championship bouts. Three Garden City competitors took thirds, including Matt Urrutia at 120 pounds, Castillo at 126 pounds and Zac Finch at 160 pounds. Fourth-places were taken by Sanchez at 113 pounds and Aldaco at 220.
The only wrestler not making the state tournament was 285-pound junior Montana Fuller, who lost both of his matches.
"We told the boys this time of year to be selfish in their wrestling," Prieto said. "We want them to take care of their own business and we'll take care of the team stuff. The boys wrestled well and I think we're peaking at the right time. At state, you need a little luck to go along with it but I like the qualify of the kids we've got going and we'll just let the chips fall."
Prieto said he felt badly for Fuller, who had transferred from Lakin and just became eligible at the start of the second semester in early January.
"He certainly would have had a chance to be a state placer, and I just feel for him not be able to wrestle," Prieto said. "I hope it doesn't come back to haunt us this next week. It was a big learning experience for him this semester and we look for him to be that much better next year."
The state tournament will get under way at 10 a.m. with first-round matches on Friday. Second-round matches will be contested early in the afternoon with semifinals scheduled at approximately 4:30 p.m. The tournament concludes on Saturday. The last state championship for the Buffs came in 1999 when Rocky Welton coached his final season.