It’s pretty much a given that in a 16-man field, the deeper a wrestler goes into the championship side of the bracket, the tougher the matches become.
That could not have been more true for Garden City High School’s only two grapplers to reach Friday afternoon’s semifinals in the 60th Rocky Welton Invitational.
The Buffs, whose lineup has been depleted by injuries, found themselves in eighth place after the opening day at The Garden with 68.5 points. Pueblo East, Colo., has a 15.5 point lead (168.5 to 153.0) over Kearney, Neb., while Goddard, Newton and Valley Center were in front of the Buffs for the Kansas contingent.
For sophomore Silas Pineda and freshman Trey Medina, the deep runs to the semifinals resulted in tough setbacks at 113 and 145 pounds, respectively.
Pineda (22-11) dropped his bout in an 8-1 decision to No. 1 seed Isaiah Gamez of La Junta, Colo.
Earlier, Pineda had marched through the bracket, including a win by fall (0:58) over Nathan St. Bernard of Bear Creek, Colo., a 6-4 decision over Goddard’s Lucas Glover and then a quarterfinal triumph, 1-0, over No. 3-seeded Justin Williams of Blue Valley Southwest.
Medina (27-13) advanced to his semifinal showdown with an early injury default win and a dramatic 4-2 tiebreak victory over Johnney Perez of Lakin.
Medina, who has steadily improved all season, couldn’t get the key points against senior Dallas Boone of Valley Center, falling by a 6-2 decision.
The two, who are part of a strong underclassmen group for the Buffs, just couldn’t muster enough in the semis to reach Saturday’s championship matches.
“My first matches went really well, but that last match I think I was just exhausted,” Pineda said. “He’s just got a lot more strength than I have right now. I’ve got to learn to do a better job of managing my weight and to be more healthy.”
Pineda said that Gamez was exceptionally tough on his feet.
“His shots were hard to defend,” Pineda said. “I think I got to worrying more about my weight than just going out and winning. The whole tournament is tough. There’s no cakewalk.”
Medina, the younger brother of the late Braxston Medina, who was tragically shot and killed in September 2011, reached the semis with a stunning 6-5 decision over No. 2-seeded Sam Martinez (30-4) of Santa Fe, N.M. Earlier, he had to go to a tiebreak in the win over Lakin’s Perez.
“That kid (Boone) is really good with his technique,” Medina said after his tough loss. “I’ve just got to work a little harder, clean some things up and just work on certain things.”
Medina said he was happy with the way the day’s overall matches had gone, now with an eye on a potential third-place finish.
“You just learn to never stop in the match,” Medina said of one of his takeways from the matches. “If you’re down, you just don’t quit. I want to make my family proud. Even now, after losing, I like where I am. This is such a great tournament and I just want to finish as high as possible.”
In his first Welton, Medina said it had been fun to go up against a talented field.
“I’ve got to see a lot of great wrestlers and just trying to learn as much as I can,” he said. “As a freshman, this has been really good for me.”
The tournament resumes Saturday with consolation round matches at 8:30 a.m. Championship, third-place and fifth-place matches are slated to start at approximately 4:30 p.m.