A pair of Class 6A state semifinalists from a year ago decided Thursday night’s WAC wrestling dual at The Garden.
As it should have for the Garden City and Dodge City high school rivals.
At 113 pounds a year ago, Garden City’s Silas Pineda dominated Dodge City’s Couy Weil in the third-place match, winning an 8-0 decision.
The duo – now ranked a No. 2 (Pineda) and No. 4 (Weil), respectively — met once again Thursday at 120 pounds in the feature match of the evening.
Scoreless through two periods, Pineda started in the down position for the final period, and rolled out of Weil’s hold and straight into a reversal for the first 2 points of the match, and what turned out to be the only 2 points as Pineda held for the individual win, and the Buffs’ 37-30 dual win.
"Silas is such a smart wrestler that I knew the only way we were going to lose the dual is if he gives up bonus points, and Silas is not going to do that, or get pinned," GCHS head coach Carlos Prieto said of the win. "Silas is a gamer. He’s a very intelligent wrestler, he’s always aware of where he’s at at all times and, really, that’s why we left it in his hands. We wanted to end it on a good note.”
The Buffs entered the dual as the fifth-ranked team in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association poll, and the Demons were No. 4.
“It was a great feeling," Prieto said of the win, referring to the Buffs' injuries to a few varsity wrestlers, resulting in shuffling of the lineup on Thursday.
Jacob Holt, Josh Janas and Elijahblu Ruiz-Hernandez all moved up a single weight, but the Buffs still went 2-1 during those matches.
“We try to find the best possible matches to win, and we thought that gave us the best chance, since we didn’t have one of our varsity kids here and had some other injuries," Prieto said.
The Demons also were without ranked wrestlers Cody Terrell and Anthony Mariche.
The Buffs started the dual in dominant fashion, as a takedown in the final seconds of the first period and another to open the second period put Garden City’s Diago Hernandez in full control of the night’s opening match at 126 points. He led 9-2 entering the final period and got a takedown and near fall to secure the major decision, 13-3.
The Buffs’ Steven Sellers got a last-minute reversal to draw even at 9 with Edwin Edwards at 132. Then, in the final seconds, Sellers got a near fall for 2 points and the 11-9 win.
Wrestling up a weight at 138, Garden City’s Jacob Holt — ranked No. 1 at 132 — was able to hold off Dodge City’s No. 5-ranked Garrett Edwards in a hotly contested 5-3 decision.
Garden City’s Josh Janas made sure the 145-pound match did not nearly last as long, pinning Dodge City’s Marcelino Otero in just a minute, 22 seconds, giving the Buffs a 16-0 lead four matches into the dual.
After trailing 5-2 in the final minute, Dodge City’s Josh Bertholf got an escape and then a takedown a few seconds later to draw even with Elijahblu Ruiz-Hernandez and force an overtime period at 152 points. Bertholf dominated the overtime period against a visibly exhausted Ruiz-Hernandez, who usually wrestles at 145, and Bertholf got the fall with 18 seconds remaining.
That was the spark that got the Demons on a fall run, with Jason Taylor pinning Andrew Garcia with 1:32 remaining in the third period, and then Ryan Parga pinned Jacob Sims in 1:15 as the Demons went ahead 18-16 in the team scoring.
Seemingly searching for a takedown in the waning seconds of an even match at 182, Cole Thompson lost his leverage and Dodge City’s Jullian Gallindo took advantage for the easy 2-point takedown and the 5-3 win.
"Grit. That’s our word this year ..." Prieto said. "We’ve got to come over any adversity thrown our way — so yeah we faced a little bit of adversity there, but I knew the kids would respond well.”
The Buffs did, getting back on top thanks to Alex Rodgriguez at 195 pounds. The No. 6 wrestler got takedown after takedown and was leading 14-2 in the second period when he finally got the fall — and the six team points to put the Buffs back on to 22-21 through nine matches.
Tyler May kept the pin streak alive with an electric takedown and pin of Dodge City’s D’Anthony Vantress just 22 seconds into the second period of the 220-pound match. May exploded out of the pin and pointed to the sky in celebration as the Buffs took a 28-24 lead.
Fuji Chairez had the big — literally and figuratively — of facing Dodge City’s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 285, Evan Darville, who took second at state a year ago,
Darville parlayed an early takedown and 3-point near fall to win 6-2.
At 106, Dodge City’s Damiean Mendez pinned Garden City’s Carlos Ramos-Reyes to give Dodge City a short-lived 30-28 lead. But Dodge City had an open weight at 113, giving the Buffs the 6 points right back, leaving the dual’s fate in the hands of Pineda and Weil at 120.
Pineda again got the best of Weil in a match that very likely may be run back at the 6A state tournament in several weeks.