Varsity/JV Wrestling · Buffs’ boys’ wrestlers struggle at 6A sub-state

Dominguez, Janas, Lopez qualify for state

The history of Garden City High School’s wrestling program is filled with historic moments for both team and individual accomplishments.

Eleven state championships since the first one in 1971, numerous two-time individual state champions and in recent years the first 4-time individual titleholder and two other 3-time champs. Twice, GCHS boys wrestling teams have won four consecutive state championships (1990-1993) and (2013-2016).

When the final match of the day concluded with Garden City’s standout freshman, 285-pounder Sebastian Lopez, capturing an impressive gold medal at the heavyweight division, the Buffs could manage just three qualifiers – the others being 138-pound junior Erick Dominguez, who dominated his division with three impressive victories; and 160-pound senior Josh Janas, who finished third with a dominant performance in the consolation bracket after losing his opening quarterfinal match in sudden victory decision, 6-8, to Aiden Boline of Topeka-Washburn Rural. Lopez (22-4) won his first match by with a pin and then had a 4-1 tiebreaker victory over nemesis Damion Ilalio (2 losses earlier in season) of Manhattan and then pinned No. 1-ranked David Huckstep of Topeka-Washburn Rural in overtime to capture his title.

Sebastian Lopez of the GCHS Buffs looks to finish off an opponent during the Feb. 20 Class 6A sub-state tournament in Wichita. Lopez won the 285-pound division. (Photo by Haley Leyva)

“Those three really stepped it up and I thought Erick was especially impressive,” Prieto said. “I was so proud of Josh to come back and battle through the consolation bracket with huge wins. Sebastian was again just great by getting wins against the top two-ranked 6A heavyweights to win his division. It’s pretty impressive for any freshman, especially at the 285 weight, to do what he just did. Sebastian is just 15 years old and to see what he’s accomplished so far is just great. He never had a letdown in any of his matches.”

Dominguez (21-2) opened with a pin of Jaime Villaneuva of Junction City at 3:28 of the second period, followed it up with a 16-3 major decision over No. 5-ranked Camden Aldrich of Wichita Northwest and capped it off with an 11-0 major decision win over No. 2-ranked Bowen Murray of Topeka-Washburn Rural. Dominguez had placed fourth at 145 pounds in the 2020 state tournament.

Buffs’ wrestler Erick Dominguez looks for a pin during a match at the Feb. 20 Class 6A sub-state in Wichita. Dominguez took first in his division. (Photo by Haley Leyva)

“He was just really overpowering in his matches,” Prieto said of Dominguez. “He wrestled a funky-style wrestler in the finals (Murray), but he looked really good. He continues to wrestle with more focus and he’s polished up a lot of the little things to improve from last year.”

Janas, who the week prior, had an injury in his semifinal regional match and didn’t wrestle in the title match. Saturday, his first match was against Aiden Boline of Washburn Rural, who came in with just a 5-1 record after being injured much of the season, according to Prieto. Boline was a contestant in the 2020 state, so the Buffs were somewhat familiar with him.

“We were up in the match, and he (Boline) just caught us in a four-point move when Josh slipped on the mat,” Prieto said. “That resulted in a takedown.”

But Janas showed his resolve and came back through the consolation bracket in spectacular fashion – first advancing on an injury forfeit by Derby’s Treyton Rusher before earning a pair of technical fall wins by scores of 16-0 (1:43) over Layton Biddle of Lawrence-Free State and then a 16-1 (3:27) tech fall triumph for third place against Easton Zapien of Liberal.

“I’m so proud of him because he obviously was disappointed with that first loss,” Prieto said. “But he accomplished what he needed to do and that was to qualify. Next week will be different. We were being a bit conservative at times in that first match, but I told him to be more aggressive and he responded and it paid off.”

It was quite stunning to see one Buffalo after another, with just those three exceptions, unable to make the top 4 spots to wrestle in next Saturday’s 6A state meet at Hartman Arena.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve only had three qualify for state,” said a disappointed head coach Carlos Prieto, on the back end of his ninth season. “It is what it is, but we were in a meat-grinder sub-state.”

The result was a disappointing eighth place team finish with 78 points. Topeka-Washburn Rural won the meet handily with 195 points, Dodge City second with 160, Lawrence-Free State third at 101, while Junction City and Derby rounded out the top 5 with 94.5 and 92 points, respectively. Manhattan (82) and Campus (79.5) were just in front of the Buffs in sixth and seventh.

“There are not only a lot of disappointed teams in how they placed, but there are a lot of good wrestlers being left at home with the format we had to work with this year,” Prieto said. “The bottom line, though, is we didn’t get it done, and everything falls back onto the head coach, so I take full responsibility for not doing the job to get these kids better prepared.”

With COVID-19 restrictions, the Kansas State High School Activities Association changed its postseason format from previous years dating all the way back to the 1980s. In earlier years, there were four sub-state championships (two in the West and two in the East) with 4 wrestlers advancing out of each sub-state. But two years ago, the format was updated to include two Super Regionals of 16 teams in the East and West, with the top 8 wrestlers qualifying for state.

This year, there were four regionals, two East and two West, with the top four advancing to this weekend’s sub-state. The sub-states were comprised of the two East regionals and the two West regional qualifiers. With 8 wrestlers in each bracket, the top 4 winners advance to next weekend’s state tourney at Hartman Arena (Saturday, Feb. 27).

The Buffs had sent 10 wrestlers to the sub-state after regional qualifying had taken place a week earlier in Dodge City.

In the opening quarterfinal matches, freshman Julius Medina lost by getting pinned by Ezekial Witt of Junction City. Sophomore Joel Contreras also lost by a pin to Eric Streeter of Lawrence-Free State, followed by another setback sustained by junior Dakota Smith, also by a fall. Ryan Heiman finally broke the string with a 6-1 decision at 126 pounds, only to drop his semifinal and firs consolation match to be eliminated from the top four.

Senior Steven Sellers, third a year ago at state, opened with a pin of Trace Lawler of Topeka-Washburn Rural at 5:47, but then was pinned in his next two matches to also be eliminated. The same scenario beset sophomore Colin Kleysteuber at 152 pounds, where he won his opening match with a pin of Devin Seibert of Manhattan (5:35), but then was pinned by Cason Lindsey of Derby in the semis and then lost a tough 8-6 decision to Griffin Bohanon of Junction City to end his chances of advancing.

Junior Alan Chairez at 182 pounds went out with two losses, getting pinned both times by wrestlers from Washburn Rural and Lawrence-Free State.

One has to go far back into the records book to locate a season in which the Garden City High School Buffaloes boys wrestling team will be barely represented at the Class 6A state tournament. It was 1983 when the state had the two-step qualifying procedure and the Buffs finished 14th at state that year. The following year of 1984 saw the Buffs place 16th. Only three other years since – 1985 and 1989 with 10th and 15th places under Rocky Welton – and 10th place in 2005 under Martin Segovia, have the Buffs finished out of the top nine. The Buffs have finished no worse than eighth over the past 15 state tournaments.

“While the team goals obviously change for state, we still have goals to get these three state individual championships,” Prieto said. “They are all capable of winning, so we will work hard to get them ready this week.”

Pairings were already announced by KSHSAA for the quarterfinal matches at the state tournament on Saturday. Matches begin at noon at Hartman Arena just north of Wichita on I-35 in Park City.

In his 138-pound opening match, Dominguez (21-2) will face Therron Meade of Gardner-Edgerton (19-11). Janas (22-5) meets Bobby Thomas of Olathe South (also 22-5) at 160 pounds and is on the same side of the bracket as Dodge City’s Marcelino Otero. Lopez (22-4) will match up with Brett Carroll of Olathe East (20-8) in his 285-pound opening bout.