By BRETT MARSHALL
It was Class 6A's No. 1 wrestling team, Garden City, taking on No. 1 in Class 4A, Colby, on the Eagles' home mat on Thursday.
For all practical purposes, it felt more like home to the visiting Buffaloes than it did for the host Eagles, as the Buffs rolled to a convincing 46-20 victory in their final tune-up before the Class 6A regional tournament on Feb. 16 at Hutchinson.
Making the dual triumph even more impressive was the fact that the Buffs were missing 106-pounder Michael Prieto, 113-pounder Efrain Sanchez, 138-pounder AJ Hurtado and 160-pounder Zac Finch. Prieto, Hurtado and Finch are all state-ranked in Class 6A.
Six of the Buffs' individual wins were by pins, garnering the team 36 of its points.
"The kids we put in really stepped it up and gave every ounce of effort they had," GCHS coach Carlos Prieto said. "I wasn't really too sure how we'd do going in, knowing that we had three state-ranked guys out of the lineup. But the kids just really performed great, and I couldn't be more happy with their effort."
Posting victories by pins were Matt Urrutia at 120-pounds (3:24 over Taylor O'Leary); Tevin Briscoe at 132 pounds (1:23 over Brett Schroeder); Trevor Kennedy at 145 pounds (1:16 over Kyle Finley); Chris Adler at 152 pounds (5:11, over Ben Matchell); Trenton Chiddix at 160 pounds (4:55 over Brandon Gaede); and Samson Aldaco at 220 pounds (3:14 over Austin Hart).
One of the best wins of the night was produced by Chiddix, a sophomore who is in his first year wrestling for the Buffs. After failing to make the basketball team back in November, Chiddix asked Prieto if he could come out for wrestling. The inquiry has paid off as Chiddix has gradually climbed the ladder and now is the backup to Finch, who is ranked No. 5 at 160 pounds.
"He's gotten better every week and done everything we've asked of him," Prieto said of Chiddix. "He's a great story of working hard and being dedicated."
Prieto said it was important for the Buffs to get off to a good start against the Eagles, and they did so by winning seven of the first 10 matches.
Securing a major decision was Mark Perez at 106 pounds with a 10-1 victory over Tanner Elias. Anthony Gardner at 170 pounds and Sam Reyes at 195 pounds notched decisions. Gardner's came by a 10-4 score against Andrew Taylor, while Reyes slipped by Troy Quenzer, 3-1.
In a pair of tough losses, Garden City's Juan Rodriguez was decisioned by Beau Brown, 6-4, at 182 pounds, while Montana Fuller lost his 285-pound match by a 1-0 score to Zell Bieberle, the No. 1-ranked heavyweight in Class 4A.
Prieto said that he opted to keep his son, Michael, as well as Sanchez, Hurtado and Finch, out to help them heal from earlier injuries. That would give the Buffs a healthy team heading into the regionals in nine days.
"Our goals are coming up and that is winning state," Prieto said. "We've put ourselves in position to be able to do that. We just want to make sure we're at our healthiest for regionals and then for state."
The Buffs completed their dual season with a 13-0 record, posting six wins at the Randall, Texas, Duals; going unbeaten at 4-0 in winning the Western Athletic Conference and posting wins against Lawrence High, Fairview, Colo., and Colby.
Results/Rankings in Scoreboard, Page B2.