Jarret Jurgens and Wyatt Hayes are no strangers to high-level competition.
That’s one reason why they enjoy their half-hour trip to Garden City every late January for the Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament.
The two Scott City veterans — Jurgens now a senior and Hayes a junior — had hugely successful 2017 performances at the Welton.
Jurgens captured the gold medal in the 152-pound division while Hayes earned a third-place bronze medal at 160 pounds.
The pair of Beaver wrestlers have each moved up a weight class this year, and they were back in business on Friday at the opening day of the 60th Welton Invitational at The Garden.
Jurgens (21-1) set himself for a potential repeat by sweeping through four matches, all by falls, including a semifinal triumph over Chase Ramirez of Valley Center at the 4:58 mark of the third period.
Hayes, meanwhile, had his hands full with the state’s No. 1-ranked 170-pounder in Troy Fisher of Goddard, who was dominant in a 13-6 decision.
Earlier, Jurgens had dispatched Matthew Boyer of Ulysses (2:32), Korbin Brown of Fountain-Ft. Carson, Colo. (0:35) and in the quarters over Elijah Blanco of Scottsbluff, Neb. (3:31).
“It’s one of my favorite tournaments, and one that I really focus in on,” Jurgens, the No. 1 seed, said after earning a spot in the Saturday afternoon title match where he will face Franklin Cruz of Pomona, Colo., the No. 2 seed. “I may have faced him last year, and if so, it should a good, tough match.”
Jurgens said it’s always a confidence boost when he wrestles in the Welton, so it’s something to build on for the upcoming regional and state tournaments.
“You get to see where your game is and the things you need to work on to get better,” Jurgens said. “You definitely get to see what it’s like in a big tournament, and it’s just a good experience.”
It was Hayes' second straight year to come up one match short of the title bout, but he took it in stride considering Fisher is now 27-0 and the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Kansas for all classes.
“There’s a reason he’s ranked No. 1,” Hayes said following the match. “We’d wrestled a lot when we were younger, but I hadn’t seen him since I was like 10 or 12 years old. I’ve definitely got some things to improve — getting better angles and working on my shots to where they’re not just straight on. I’ve got to be more creative with them.”
Fully aware that the Nos. 1, 4 and 6 seeds in his weight are all top-rated, Hayes said he’d have to be better Saturday if he wants to take a repeat third place.
“You've got to be on your A-game here, and can’t make many mistakes,” Hayes said. “When you come here, you have to kind of set a new standard. Third is pretty good here, where first is what you look for at just a regular tournament. No matter who you’re wrestling, it’s gonna be tough.”
Hayes had earlier won all three bouts by falls, including one over rival Tanner Johnson of Holcomb, when he earned the pin at the 3:32 mark of the second period.