Like father, like son ... almost
By BRETT MARSHALL
When Carlos Prieto was a high school wrestler at Scott City, he qualified for the state tournament but never claimed a state title.
Years later, after earning his education degree and moving into the teaching/coaching world, he successfully guided Ulysses' wrestling teams before moving to Garden City. He took a one-year change of venue to guide Holcomb's infant wrestling program before coming back to Garden City to serve as an assistant to Monte Moser.
When Moser retired after the 2012 season, former GCHS coach and now athletic director Martin Segovia hired Prieto to take the reins of the Buffaloes' tradition-rich program.
That hire proved to be a successful one as Prieto, along with a revamped coaching staff, guided the Buffs to the 2013 Class 6A state championship on Feb. 23, bring home the school's eighth title, but first since 1999.
"It still seems surreal," Prieto said earlier this week after being selected The Telegram's Wrestling Coach of the Year. "I knew Garden City wrestling was big, but I had no idea how big. I'm still getting emails — one from Jordan Nichols (former state champion) really got me. To have alumni, former wrestlers contact you and tell you how great it is what the team achieved, well, it's just pretty amazing and means a lot to me, and means a lot to the boys."
The Buffs had a target on their back all season, having been ranked No. 1 in Class 6A at the start of the season in December. They never lost that lofty position, despite the fact they couldn't beat Class 5A's Arkansas City, the eventual state team champion. But that doesn't detract from what Prieto, his staff and the Buffs' team accomplished.
They were unbeaten in 13 dual matches, winning all four matches in the Western Athletic Conference, taking first in the regional tournament before going to Wichita's Hartman Arena where they blasted away the team competition, winning with 173.5 points, 45 points in front of runner-up Junction City, the state's No. 2-ranked team.
"Prior to the (state) tournament, I was talking with one of the Junction City coaches and he told me it was going to be a close race," Prieto recalled. "I agreed with him. One thing I didn't do, was I didn't give enough credit to our kids. The way they performed, they saved the best for last. They put it away early, added a couple of exclamation points. It was a great, great feeling."
The Buffs had two state individual state champions — sophomore Tevin Briscoe at 132 pounds and Prieto's freshman son, Michael, at 106 pounds. It was Michael who provided coach Prieto with his first individual gold medal winner.
"I knew Michael was going to be a good wrestler," coach Prieto said. "I told the staff after coming back from Kansas City (December, where the younger Prieto lost just one of five matches), I didn't know how good he was. I still wasn't quite sure. Him winning — it's special. My wife (Michelle) said to me was, 'Don't doubt our son. He's a good wrestler.' One thing I underestimated is his heart. And his work ethic is second to none. He's really turned himself into a great wrestler."
In a twist of irony, when Prieto did his student teaching, his mentor was current Scott City boys basketball and football coach Glenn O'Neil. O'Neil, with two of his own sons playing, won the last three Class 3A state basketball championships and the 2012 3A football championship.
"Wow, what a feeling when you have your own son competing for you," Prieto said with a big smile. "Coach O'Neil is a great leader, a great man. I had to coach against him when I was in Ulysses. He's proven himself. I hope we get a chance at a three-peat."
Coach Prieto said that goal will get under way for next year soon.
"We've set the bar, now it's been raised," coach Prieto said. "It's even higher, but I'm confident we'll do well again. We've had tremendous support from the school and the community. It's been a special time for all of us. I'm fortunate in that I have a great group of assistant coaches that make our program what it is."