Garden City High School’s wrestling team won five of 14 weight divisions on Saturday to walk away with the team title at the Clay Center Invitational.
The Buffs, the two-time defending Class 6A champions and currently ranked No. 1 by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, finished with 237 points to easily outdistance runner-up Norton, the defending state 3-2-1A state champ and currently ranked No. 1, which had 172.5 points. Marysville (145), defending 4A state champ Holton (133.5) and ranked in 6A Junction City (131.5) rounded out the top five teams.
Individual championships were captured by freshmen Kaj Perez and Malachi Salas at 106 and 120 pounds, respectively, along with two-time state champions Michael Prieto at 126 pounds and Tevin Briscoe at 145 pounds. Sophomore Zeke Herrera was the fifth gold medalist by winning the 195-pound division. Salas, Herrera and Briscoe each won five matches, while Perez captured four wins and Prieto three.
“Overall, competitive-wise, the kids had some individual tough matchups,” head coach Carlos Prieto said. “Others in some of the weight classes didn’t have the same caliber of competition. It was a good tournament to help us prepare for next week (Friday-Saturday) at the Kansas City Stampede.”
Salas was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the day for the Buffs, as he was filling in for the injured Caysean Campbell. En route to his winning, Salas defeated two of the state-ranked Class 3-2-1A wrestlers in Hoxie’s Bryce Bacon (No. 3, 3-2 decision) and Norton’s Kade Unterseher (No. 4, Maj. dec., 10-2).
“Malachi was unseeded and he just got better as the matches progressed,” Prieto said. “I’m very proud of him for being able to step in, step up and compete. That’s what I’ve said to others who have to fill in for some of our kids who are banged up a little.”
Efrain Sanchez (3-1), Jesse Nunez (3-1) and Peyton Hill (4-1) all took second in their respective weight classes of 113, 160 and 220.
“Overall, I’m pleased, but with it still early in the season, there’s things we can work on technique-wise,” Prieto said. “Conditioning, I think we’re doing pretty well, but we’ve just got to continue to work on those little things that will help make the difference down at the end of the season.”
The K.C. Stampede is one of the biggest tournaments in the Midwest, with more than 30 schools from multiple states involved.