PARK CITY — Refujio Chairez took the shot like an offensive lineman, withstanding the bull rush from Ronnie Washington, the fourth-ranked wrestler in 6A at 285, then flipped his hips for the throw and pin just 58 seconds into his semifinal match on Friday at Hartman Arena.
“He threw him like a rag doll,” Garden City High School head coach Carlos Prieto said with a beaming grin after seeing the display of Herculean strength. “(Chairez) is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached, and one thing you can’t coach is hips, and he was able to get his hips low and that throw was awesome.”
The pin of the Derby heavyweight put Chairez (No. 2 in 6A) into Saturday’s finals of the Class 6A state wrestling championships, as the Buffaloes will have three individual wrestlers looking to win titles after a one-year break from gold medals in the program’s storied history.
Silas Pineda (113) and Jacob Holt (132) join Chairez, all going 3-0 Friday. As a team, the Buffaloes are in fourth with 101 points, likely too far behind first-place Derby’s 139 to make a run at the team title Saturday.
Garden City missed a few chances for points in Friday’s semifinals, which saw six Buffs wrestlers competing for that finals slot. But Erick Dominguez, Andrew Garcia and Alex Rodriguez each fell short.
The Buffs also took big hits in the quarterfinals when Diago Hernandez (No. 3 at 120 in 6A) lost to Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Charles Brockman (No. 6), and Josh Janas (No. 2 at 138) was pinned by Blue Valley Northwest’s Antonio Chavez (unranked).
“We lost a couple (in the semifinals) I really thought we could get one of,” Prieto said.
But Saturday is a new day, and the finals present a chance at redemption for both Holt and Pineda. As a sophomore a year ago, Holt was gunning for a second-consecutive state championship, which would put him on the road to be one of the state’s few four-time state champions.
But Holt fell in the final, in a match he said he felt he lost due to being overconfident, or “cocky.”
Holt won all three of his matches Friday in dominating fashion, including scoring a last-second takedown in the semifinal to score bonus points for his team with a major decision.
But in contrast to much of the rest of the finalists after the win, Holt was measured in his celebration. It was a mix of exhaustion and focus for the next step, he said.
“I’m not done, yet,” he said. “I’ve still got one more to go, and I can’t get cocky like I did last year, so I’m calm and focused.”
Holt, ranked No. 1 in 6A, pinned Blue Valley West’s Tate Marcum in just 44 seconds to open the day, then scored a 13-2 major decision over Blue Valley’s Ethan Meuret to reach the semifinal.
There, he had a bit more trouble with Mill Valley’s Austin Keal, who tried to stall as much as possible. But in the third period — Holt led just 4-0 after two periods — the junior kept grinding. He got a quick escape and a takedown for the 7-0 lead, and then tried to score the pin but couldn’t get Keal turned.
In the final minute, Holt opted to allow the escape and go for another takedown. He got it in the final 20 seconds, and just rode out from there to score the team bonus points with the 9-1 win.
“At the end of the day, I’m always for my friends, my family, and my team is my family. So, I’m always looking to help them, and bonus points do that,” Holt said.
Holt now faces Derby's Cason Lindsey in the title match. Lindsey is the second-ranked wrestler at 132 behind Holt.
Pineda’s finals matchup is the one he wanted for nearly a month now. After losing to Kale McCracken (Haysville Campus) in the final of the Bob Kuhn Prairie Classic in Hays on Jan. 19, Pineda has been wanting another crack at McCracken. He got it when McCracken won all three of his matches by fall Friday.
“Coming into (Saturday), I’m really, really excited,” Pineda said. “I lost to McCracken at Hays, and I feel like it really lit a fire under my belly.”
Pineda had to overcome a tweak to his surgically repaired shoulder at regionals, which cost him his final two matches, and developed the flu earlier this week. But showing no signs of wear, his route to the final was an easy one through the first two rounds — both ended in pins after Pineda had already built big leads. In the semifinal against Manhattan’s Easton Taylor, Pineda also had an early lead after a takedown in the first period, but from there he stalled.
“I feel like, on feet, I was more dominant,” Pineda said. “But on the mat, in the down position, I couldn’t get up. He’s really strong.”
But the savvy Pineda never gave up points, either, denying Taylor at each step — until Taylor was on the bottom and Pineda had to try to hold on. But that backfired when Taylor got a spinning reversal with 30 seconds to go to draw even at 2.
Pineda avoided the near fall to end regulation, but then was forced to go into sudden victory. But that meant the two wrestlers were on their feet once again, and Pineda got an easy takedown just 11 seconds into the period for the 4-2 win.
Pineda is ranked No. 3 in 113 and McCracken is No. 1.
Chairez could have been looking for redemption in his final, as well, but Dodge City’s Evan Darville, who edged Chairez in the super regional final and was ranked No. 1 in 6A, lost his semifinal to Lawrence’s Ejae Jewsome in an all-out brawl, 13-12. Darville is ranked No. 1 at 285 and Jewsome is No. 3.
“In my head, I was thinking I got second opportunity to face him, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Chairez said.
Chairez got to the final by scoring a quick pin of Olathe East’s Laronte Lewis in the opening round, and then won a 5-2 decision over Wichita South’s Payton Collins, the sixth-ranked 6A wrestler, setting up the dramatic semifinal win.
“I used all my strength on that one,” Chairez said with a laugh about his throw of Washington.
Back of the bracket Buffs
Hernandez and Janas both have solid shots at making a deep run through the back of the bracket Saturday morning. And then the three semifinal losers — Dominguez, Garcia and Rodriguez — already have secured medals, but have shots at third place Saturday, as well.
After losing his opening match by major decision, Jared Arrellano secured his berth to the back of Saturday’s 152-pound bracket with a 10-2 major decision over Blue Valley Northwest’s Brendan Bartholome.
Knocked out on Friday were Elijahblu Ruiz-Hernandez (145), Jacob Sims (170) and Tyler May (220).
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.