One week removed from a rare Western Athletic Conference dual loss, the Garden City Buffaloes wrestling team returned home for the first time all season Thursday night.
The Garden proved to be a welcome sight for the Buffs, who were still smarting from their 33-27 loss seven days earlier at rival Dodge City. Two days after that, the Buffs finished second at the Norton Invitational behind Class 6A rival and defending state team champion Manhattan.
But Thursday night, with Great Bend arriving on the heels of a 40-35 dual win over Dodge City, the Buffs reminded everyone why they have been one of the dominant Class 6A schools in Kansas over the past five seasons.
The reminder was a 46-18 thumping of the Panthers that had head coach Carlos Prieto smiling, but still knowing there is much work to be done between now and the end of February.
“A B-minus for tonight I would say,” Prieto said. “I’m pretty hard on the kids, and they are showing signs of progress. The biggest thing, though, is we’ve got to get better wrestling from the bottom. We’re not transitioning what we’re doing in practice into the actual matches.”
The Buffs got a bevy of big wins from the lower weights, to the middle weights and then at the heavy divisions.
Of the 14 matches, the Buffs won nine, six of those coming on pins of Panther opponents.
“The bonus points were big for us,” Prieto said. “I’ve told the boys all along that you can’t sit back and be timid out there. You’ve got to be aggressive.”
Prieto said he was especially happy for 182-pounder Josh Dowdy, who has struggled as a light 182, but Thursday earned a 5-1 decision over Jacob Meeks that clinched the dual victory and put the team up 34-12 with three remaining matches.
The Buffs claimed the final two, as Julian Facio and Refugio Chairez pinned their foes — Ever Chavez at 2:16 of the second period and Eric Vazquez at 1:36 of the first period.
“I’m really happy for Josh because we’ve asked a lot of him, and he’s worked very hard,” Prieto said. “Julian and Refugio are just getting better all the time, so there’s much to be happy with and much that we have to work on.”
Two of the other big wins in the middle matches came from Elijahblu Ruiz-Hernandez and Jacob Sims at 138 and 160.
Ruiz-Hernandez earned a 12-2 major decision and four points over Braxton Schooler, while Sims pinned Quinn Hoffman.
“We’re making improvements,” said Ruiz-Hernandez, who was coming off a big Norton Invitational title. “Getting those bonus points allowed us to get ahead.”
Ruiz-Hernandez said the Dodge City loss might have been a wake-up call for him and his teammates, as he also lost his match in that dual a week earlier.
“After losing to the Dodge kid, I had to make something good happen,” Ruiz-Hernandez said. “We’ve been working very hard on not getting turned over, but we’ve still got room for getting better.”
Sims echoed his teammates assessment, while still drawing a big smile after his quick pin of Hoffman in the first period.
“I’ve just been working on my set-ups, and we really wanted to beat Great Bend after what happened last week,” Sims said. “They beat Dodge and I think tonight we were definitely hungrier. Coach told me to go out and get a pin, so that’s what I did.”
Other pins came from Steven Sellers at 106, Jacob Holt at 126 and Alex Rodriguez at 170.
Sellers earned his fall at 0:34 of the first over Brantley Baldwin, Holt pinned Skylar Burkes at 2:28 of the second period and Rodriguez handled Wiley Brand at 2:20 of the second.
In one of the highlight matches, Diego Hernandez earned a 3-2 tiebreaker decision in the second overtime against Carsyn Schooler.
The Buffs will now head west once again on Saturday when they travel to Arvada, Colo.