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Scott City, Garden City, Ulysses dominate wrestlers

Published 3/17/2012

By BRETT MARSHALL and

KEVIN THOMPSON

sports@gctelegram.com

Luke Hayes, Scott City

Class: Senior (285)

Record: Won 36, Lost 0

State Finish: Class 3-2-1A, Champion

Luke Hayes won a state title at 215 pounds last year.

To make a repeat more dramatic, he moved up a weight class and went undefeated.

At 36-0, the three-sport athlete also added a team title to his list of athletic accomplishments.

His dominating performance throughout the season was enough to be named The Telegram's Wrestler of the Year for 2012.

The soft-spoken heavyweight said the repeat was always part of this season's plan, but thinking it doesn't make it come true. Though his road there may have looked easy, it took a lot of hard work.

"The thing that motivated me the most was trying to be a good team leader," Hayes said. "I had a slow start to the season and started practice off really bad. I'm one of those kids who need motivation to start working hard."

Hayes said he found that motivation in senior teammate Manny Turner, who qualified for state for the first time this year.

Turner's effort in practice and in meets was inspirational, he said, and it was the catalyst for which he had been looking.

"After that, there was no stopping me," he said.

"No stopping me" is putting it mildly. The state finals match was only the third time he had been scored on all season, and just the second time he had been taken down.

The first was at the league meet in Holcomb where he was "just being stupid," he said, but he pinned that opponent just 24 seconds later.

Coach Jon Lippelman and the rest of the Scott City coaches were also big motivators, Hayes said.

"They're always enthusiastic. They love their jobs. They care about every one of us and push us every day, trying to make us better," he said. "They won't let you get by with second-best."

As one of the senior team leaders, Hayes took joy in his teammate's successes, as well as his own.

"We're a very tight group, come league and regionals and state," he said. "We all wanted to do the best we could, and we figured giving the little extra support might make a guy push himself a little harder."

Hoisting the team trophy after his final match with all the team gathered around him was an exciting payoff, he said.

"The six of us we took, we were all quality wrestlers," he said. "I was just hoping we could have placed all six of us."

Scott City's year-long success in sports is all about everybody pushing everybody, Hayes said.

"We've got great turnouts for weights in the summer. And when one team wins a title — like us winning wrestling — that makes the basketball team push harder to win one. It pushes us to always try to do our best," he said.

As a 4.0 student, Hayes has already set his future plans toward pediatric nursing.

That field will take not just the dedication he has developed as a successful athlete, but also the discipline he has learned in the classroom, he said.

Next he is heading to Butler Community College to play football, but after his two years there, he might think about doing both football and wrestling on the next level.

Anthony Calderon, Garden City

Class: Senior (120)

Season Record: Won 30, Lost 7

State Finish: Class 6A, 3rd

If someone had asked Anthony Calderon when his prep wrestling career began at Garden City High School if he'd be thrilled with four medals as he graduated, he first would have said it might not happen.

Then again, nobody imagined that Calderon would accomplish just that — four trips to state, four medals, including a 2011 state championship at 112 pounds.

This year, in his final campaign, Calderon didn't repeat his state title, but he placed third in a tough weight class. He lost in the semifinals and then won his next two matches to earn the third-place medal, thus becoming only the fifth GCHS wrestler in history to medal all four years at the state.

"Each year, incrementally, I got better," Calderon said. "Obviously winning state (junior year) was a big thrill. I wanted to repeat, but it just didn't happen. Still, I think I had a good season."

At this year's state tournament, Calderon was locked in a battle with Blue Valley West's Jacob Parise and the regulation match was tied at five. But Calderon, who had taken a timeout in the third period when he had an asthma attack, was simply out of breath and didn't have any energy in the overtime period, and lost on a takedown just seven seconds after the OT started.

In the aftermath of the loss, Calderon said he had forgotten to use his inhaler for the asthma condition earlier in the day.

When he came back to wrestle on Saturday in the consolation bracket, he narrowly edged Devon Tiger of Wichita South, 3-2, before dispatching Jones, 8-3, in the third-place match.

Calderon will soon sign an NCAA letter-of-intent to wrestle at Fort Hays State University, joining former GCHS teammate Joey Dozer on the Tigers' squad. He will likely wrestle at 125 pounds and plans to pursue a degree in justice studies and also received an academic scholarship at FHSU.

Despite a freshman season with a 17-13 record, he captured fourth at the state tournament then wrestled half of his sophomore season at 112 before dropping to 103 in the last half and again won a medal at state. That catapulted him to his final two seasons in which he went 61-14.

"I don't have any regrets, I did my best, I worked hard and I'm happy with what I achieved," Calderon said.

AJ Hurtado, Garden City

Class: Junior (132)

Season Record: Won 33, Lost 14

State Finish: Class 6A champion

In some small measure, AJ Hurtado's Class 6A state championship can be attributed to some words of advice from his teammate, Anthony Calderon.

"He just told me to wrestle smart and keep the pressure on," Hurtado said of his senior teammate.

Hurtado did just that, recording a takedown early and then eventually posting a convincing 10-5 victory over Barry Newton of Wichita Heights.

"I just tried to stay calm and not let the nerves get to me," Hurtado said. "It's a big arena (Hartman Arena, Wichita) and is a way different feeling from other players we wrestle."

From the early takedown, Hurtado said he felt like he was in control of the match throughout.

"This feels good, there was a lot of congratulations," he said. "It's a pretty big deal and now I've got a target on my back for next year. I'll just keep working hard, not change too much."

Hurtado had to overcome an opponent who was penalized twice during the match, once for bending his finger back and then again later for throwing an elbow that hit Hurtado in the head.

"It was a little sad to see that kind of action by him," Hurtado said. "I just wanted to show good sportsmanship so I tried not to let it get to me."

In finishing his season with a 33-14 won-loss record, Hurtado swept past four opponents at the 6A state tourney. He earned an 8-3 decision over Caleb Gash of Derby, a 4-2 overtime win against Jaquwan Stone of Blue Valley Northwest and then a 5-3 decision over Tre Davis of Manhattan in the semifinals.

Now, with a gold medal safely tucked away, Hurtado looks forward to his senior season.

"It will be tough because everybody's going to be gunning for me" Hurtado said.

Razzy Morales, Ulysses

Class: Senior (152)

Record: Won 37, Lost 4

State Finish: Class 4A, Champion

Razzy Morales' plan going into this season was pretty basic: win a state title.

Pretty bold for a wrestler who had previously placed sixth twice and only qualified his freshman year for the state meets.

But to say that his 2012 goal was unrealistic is to not know the inner fortitude of the 152-pounder from Ulysses.

If you dream it, then put a plan under it, any goal is attainable, and the Tiger senior did just that.

Morales surprised nearly everybody with his state title, but not himself, and now he has a gold medal to show for it.

"Me and (teammate Jason Perez) worked pretty hard all year trying to get to the finals," Morales said. "We told each other we were just going to run off with it, and we did."

Other guys can dream of the gold, but Morales said he and Perez pushed each other hard at practice and worked pretty hard every day.

His previous experiences at state gave him a feel for what to expect, he said.

"And when it's your senior year, you feel like you've got nothing to lose," he added.

None of his matches were pins, but Morales said he always has a way to bounce back from almost anything, and the state meet proved no different.

Morales has been wrestling since the age of 6, and his goal has always been to be the best. Twelve years later, it all paid off.

Morales credits his coach, Joe Gonzales, with helping him get to this pinnacle.

"He's real technical in teaching us how to do it the right way. He didn't show us a lot of moves, but the moves he showed us, he showed us how to do them right," he said.

Mentally, Gonzales helped a lot this year, he added.

"This year he told us to stay relaxed before a match," Morales said. "Before, we'd get all pumped up. This year he just told us to relax and keep breathing."

It worked.

As a senior, Morales hopes his and Perez's hard work in the practice room rubbed off on the underclassmen. It's a legacy he would like to leave.

"Hopefully they see, and they start working hard. Some days our team wouldn't work very hard, but maybe they'll kick it into gear next year and realize it pays," he said.

Besides wrestling, Morales was a running back for the successful Tigers football program and will finish his Ulysses sports career by throwing discus this spring.

Maybe, he added, wrestling will be in his near future, but for now, he is enjoying the moniker of "state champion."

Clay Mulligan, Scott City

Class: Senior (132)

Record: Won 39, Lost 3

State Finish: Class 3-2-1A, 2nd

In the perfect scenario, Clay Mulligan would have been standing on the podium at the state tournament receiving a second gold medal.

Instead, the 132-pounder settled for silver, something that didn't sit too well for the senior from Scott City, who had won the 112-pound title the year before.

Mulligan won that last year in Hays, completing a 37-1 season and being named The Telegram's outstanding wrestler.

He was confident that he could win another title this year,

His dreams of repeating were severely hampered by a late ankle injury at the end of his semifinal round, which he was leading at the time.

"It was a high-ankle sprain, and it was really, really sore," he said.

All efforts to keep the swelling down, including agonizingly painful buckets of ice, were wasted in the final match the next day when his foot got caught in the mat, he said, and it was just too painful.

"The first period I was doing all I could to stay with him," Mulligan said.

But the injury was too much to overcome, and he said he basically wrestled the rest of the match from one knee, which is not his style at all.

So even though he finished 39-3 for the season, getting second place in that fashion didn't feel good at all.

Winning the team title helped overcome that disappointed feeling, he said, but it was a bitter-sweet moment.

"Wrestling is a different sport where it's about the individual, mainly. If the individuals take care of their thing, the team thing is going to take care of itself," he said.

He, along with Luke Hayes, the winner at 285 pounds, were the team leaders by senior default, he said, and because of their wrestling backgrounds. Along with Manny Turner, the seniors tried to lead by example in practice and in competition, and it apparently worked.

Mulligan is unsure about where he would like to go from here, but losing in the finals this year has helped steer him a certain direction.

"I think I've got to wrestle," he said. "I can't let that be my last match. If I was healthy, I think I could have won."

Had he won, he said that might have been the end of his wrestling career, but now he's still hungry for some more wins.

A 4.0 student, he would like to major in something with biology, perhaps physical therapy or sports medicine. Maybe coaching wrestling — even at Scott City — he said would be pretty cool, too, but that's a ways off.

Jason Perez, Ulysses

Class: Senior (113)

Record: Won 32, Lost 5

State Result: Class 4A, champion

Jason Perez won a state title at 103 pounds in 2011.

The goal for 2012 was a second title, this time at 113, and the senior from Ulysses got it.

He just didn't expect this state tournament to be as hard as the previous time.

Last year, he knew he had a chance to win, but he focused on winning just one match at a time.

This year, up one weight class, he felt the same way, but he knew that it would be tougher.

"At these bottom weights, it's more about speed and technique and a little bit of strength," Perez said.

But the mental qualities and toughness have to be there, too, he added, and that's something he has been working on, as well, since he first took up the sport at age 6.

"My dad put me in wrestling because my brother was in it, and I really like(d) it," he said. "It was a good move."

This year's state run was the culmination of all those years, but it didn't come easy.

"Last year was more of winning by a pin or by a lot of points. I never really had a close match," Perez said. "But this year, with a different weight class and a different way to wrestle, it was just really closer."

Though he was a defending champion, Perez was only ranked fourth in the final 4A rankings heading into regionals. At the top was the guy he beat last year and eventually defeated this year at state, the same one who beat him in the first meet of the season.

Perez said he felt somewhat slighted by that ranking, and state was his chance to prove people wrong.

"What motivated me was wanting to beat him," he said. "At regionals, he beat me by two points, but I got to see how to beat him, and I did."

He and teammate Razzy Morales, the state champion at 152 pounds, fed off each other in practice, Perez said.

"We work together on our techniques. I help him with his weaknesses, and helps me with mine," he said. "Even though the weights are different, I have speed, which helps him get quicker, and he has weight, so it makes me stronger."

Where does he go from here? Perez hopes to wrestle in college, but even if he doesn't, college is in his future.

"In a match, just think about what you've got to do," he said. "It's the same with the books."
———
2012 Garden City Telegram
All-Area Wrestling Team

First Team
Name                      School           Class   Weight   Record
Anthony Calderon   Garden City   Sr.       120        30-7
Luke Hayes             Scott City       Sr.       285       36-0
AJ Hurtado              Garden City   Jr.        132       33-13
Razzy Morales        Ulysses          Sr.       152       37-4
Clay Mulligan          Scott City       Sr.        132       39-3
Jason Perez            Ulysses         Sr.       113        32-5

Second Team
Name                      School           Class   Weight   Record
Keegan Amos         Holcomb        Jr.        113        19-5
Lawton Fiss            Hugoton         Jr.        145        37-6
Anthony Gardner    Garden City   Jr.        170        28-20
Jonathan Heiman   Garden City   Sr.        160       14-5
James Jurgens       Scott City       Fr.        113       30-13
Colten Lissolo         Hugoton        Sr.        220       18-2

Honorable Mention
Name                          School          Class   Weight   Record
Chris Adler                 Garden City   So.       145       22-9
Montana Fuller           Lakin              Fr.        285        --
Alex Kough                Scott City       Jr.        120        29-5
Michael McEachern   Scott City       Jr.        220       18-8
Tyson Phillis               Garden City   Sr.       138       33-14
Armando Sandoval    Ulysses          Jr.       182       32-11
Patrick Weaver          Hugoton         Jr.       152      30-11

Wrestler of the Year — Luke Hayes, Scott City (State Champion, Class 3-2-1A, 285 pounds)

Coach of the Year — Jon Lippelman, Scott City (Class 3A State Team Champion)


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