The Garden City Buffalo wrestling team has set itself up for success in the state tournament. They qualified 13 of their 14 wrestlers for state at the 6A regional tournament in Hutchinson on Saturday. In addition, they swept the team standings with 179.5 points. Derby was the next closest with 168, also qualifying 13 wrestlers, followed by Wichita Northwest with 107. Garden City head coach Carlos Prieto said the numbers will be the Buffs greatest advantage.
“You know I have always said we are pretty solid from top to bottom and I like the chances we have with the 13 that we are taking,” he said. “I am stoked and I know the kids are ready and we are ready to get after it next weekend.”
The Buffs advanced all 14 athletes through the first round to the semi-finals but the second round created some adversity. They only qualified eight but through the consolation bracket ranks they regained the other five. Garden City’s senior heavy weight was the only Buff unable to climb back through the bracket to state contention. None of the Buffs had an easy road but six earned first place in their weight classes. Freshman Michael Prieto was one of those six and he attributed his success to his teammates. “They push me every day in practice, Matt Urrutia and all of them,” he said. “He makes me a better wrestler because he is bigger than me and he’s older than me so he can help me with things. They push me throughout the whole practice.”
Buffs' freshman Alec Castillo earned third in the 126 weight class and will also head to the state tournament. He said qualifying so many teammates is just motivation to take home a title.“There hasn’t been a state championship team since 1999 so we all just want it really bad,” he said. “We want to be the first team in the new high school to do it.”
That is not the only motivation factor fueling the Buffs. All of the older wrestlers exited the Hutchinson arena wearing identical shirts with former teammate Braxston Medina’s picture on them. Senior Trevor Kennedy said Medina is one of the driving forces behind their 2013 state title run."It was a sad deal for all of us and we want to remember him,” Kennedy said. “We want to win it for him because he never got to.”
Wichita Northwest earned third as a team and qualified ten of their wrestlers for state. Junior Jordan Bell controlled the 220 weight class and took home a first place trophy from the regional tournament. He defeated Hutchinson junior Lex Plummer in the championship bout. It was not about him; however, as he came off the mat. This is the first year they went 9-0 in district and he said it could not have been done without his teammates supporting one another. “Things are finally starting to roll for me,” he said. “As a team some things went wrong and some people got into bad situations but we pulled together and came through it. Qualifying so many just means that we can make some noise and hopefully come home with a win at state.”
Wichita South also made an impact on the 6A regionals. Although they only qualified four for the state tournament, the Titans are focused on the quality of their representatives. Titan senior Dillon Young will battle for a state title next weekend in the 285 weight class and he said could not imagine going with a better group of young men.
“This is my third year going to state and it has always been difficult to get here,” he said. “This year has been especially hard with my shoulder but it just fills me with pride to get to go back to state. To me we aren’t underdogs. [My teammates] work their butts off every day in the wrestling room and we will show what we are made of at the tournament.”
Five wrestlers from Hutchinson qualified for state as well as four from Dodge City, four from Haysville-Campus and three from Maize.