Official in-season practices began in earnest Monday for Garden City High School’s wrestling and girls and boys basketball teams.
It was the same for the other 18 schools in The Telegram’s coverage area, as well as across the state of Kansas.
Only two schools in the area — Holcomb and Scott City — are still playing football, having reached Friday’s Class 4A-II semifinals, meaning those players are still going through practices until their respective seasons are completed.
At Garden City High School, sixth-year head wrestling coach Carlos Prieto and his staff greeted approximately 45 to 50 wrestlers for the opening day on the mat.
After a third-place Class 6A state finish, which came on the heels of an historic four-year state championship run, the Buffs will be eager to get ready for the rigors of a tough regular season schedule in preparation for next February’s super regional and then state tournament.
“We’ll spend this week working on basic drills, and getting them into wrestling shape,” Prieto said. “It’s a good group, and I expect them to work hard throughout the season.”
Heading the list of returners for Prieto is sophomore Jacob Holt, who captured the 113-pound 6A state title a year ago. He is expected to move up to 120 pounds this season, Prieto said.
Silas Pineda, a sixth-place medalist in 2016, will be back, projected to be moving up from 106 to 113. Three other state qualifiers will also anchor the Buffs returners — Kai Perez (132), Wyatt McElroy (138) and Curtis Near (152).
Among the other top returners are Alex Herrera (113), Diago Hernandez (106), Alex Rodriguez (170) and James Cisneros (285).
The Buffs will make their public debut on Nov. 28 with the annual Brown/White challenge matches at The Garden, and will open their regular season on Dec. 1 and 2 at the Pine Creek, Colo. tournament.
Starting his second season, GCHS girls basketball coach Matt Pfeifer greeted approximately 35 girls for the start of the 2017-18 preseason practices on Monday.
“It’s a little lower in numbers than we would have expected, but the group that is here has been attentive, and they care about each other,” Pfeifer said Tuesday after his second day of practice.
Pfeifer, who saw his first team struggle for much of the season with a 6-16 record, welcomes back four seniors, all who either started or saw considerable playing time as juniors.
That group includes 5-11 Josie Calzonetti, 5-6 guard Beth Guymon, 5-6 guard Annie Gerber and 6-0 forward/post Kensi Peitz.
“It will be a combination of those seniors and mixed in with some freshmen and sophomores,” Pfeifer said. “We’re gonna be pretty young. Just getting the young ones accustomed to the speed of varsity ball and hitting the fundamentals will be our primary focus this first week.”
The Buffs will open the season Dec. 1 at the Tournament of Champions in Canyon, Texas.
While the 11-12 record wasn’t quite as good as he would have liked, now eighth-year GCHS boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway said the fact that last year’s team ended the season on a strong run, earning a spot in the Class 6A state tournament, was a momentum-builder for the upcoming campaign.
And Holloway perhaps has his most experienced group of returners in his tenure (76-78 in seven seasons).
The group includes 6-3 junior Tye Davis, 5-10 senior Garret Doll, 6-1 junior forward Jarrod Springston, 6-3 senior post DeMarcus Elliott and 5-6 sophomore guard Carlos Acosta.
“I really liked the way the group played last summer when we went to camp,” Holloway said of the trip to Lubbock, Texas, at Texas Tech University. “We put in a lot of new things on offense which I think suits this group really well. It should open up our offense a lot more.”
Holloway and his staff welcomed 76 players, 35 freshmen and 41 upperclassmen, to the first day of practice.
“We’re doing just one practice each of the first three days before going into two-a-days for Thursday and Friday,” Holloway said. “We’ll re-introduce them into a lot of the offense and defense later in the week.”
The Buffs open on the road Dec. 1 at the Canyon, Texas, Tournament of Champions before hosting the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic Dec. 8 to 10.