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Hays High's Weigel back to the dance

By KLINT SPILLER
kspiller@dailynews.net

Junior Preston Weigel might just be a once-in-a-lifetime wrestler for Hays High School.

Weigel, 38-0 this season and 118-4 in his three-year career, is a two-time state finalist, runner-up at 145 pounds as a freshman and
state champion at 170 pounds as a sophomore, and is the state favorite to win the Class 5A 195-pound weight class this season.

If he wins the state title, he will have 122 career victories — the second most in the school’s history. It would put him three wins shy of career-leader Rusty Wickham, who compiled 125 from 2003 to 2006, but Weigel still has a year to go.

“In all the years I’ve been coaching wrestling at Hays High School, we’ve never had this caliber of a wrestler who has come through our program,” said Hays High head coach John Hafliger. “Just the level that he wrestles at all the time is pretty amazing. It is pretty special.”

Weigel is averaging nearly 40 victories per season, an astonishing number considering many wrestlers don’t collect 40 in a season — let alone average it during a career.

“That is just about unheard of,” Hafliger said. “There are very few wrestlers across the state who reach a goal like that.”

Weigel is talented. There’s no doubt about that.

As senior Kyler Meyers, a state qualifier at 170 pounds, pointed out, Weigel is built like “a brick wall.”

“I’ve wrestled people as fast as him but nobody as strong as him,” said Meyers, who often is Weigel’s wrestling partner in practice.

However, Hafliger said Weigel’s success hasn’t just been due to his talent. Weigel also is one of the hardest workers in the Hays
High wrestling room, he said.

Weigel has wrestled since he was 5 years old when his cousin convinced him to wrestle.

He didn’t become active in tournaments until he was 6, but once he did, he quickly rose up the ranks.

A few years later, he began to wrestle in higher age divisions in order to see better competition. That was when his family decided to take him to larger, more national tournaments.

There, Weigel saw some of the best talent in the country, so when he got to high school, he was prepared immediately.

“He is definitely seasoned and experienced,” Hafliger said. “He knows how to handle big matches, because he’s wrestled in big matches.”

Meyers said Weigel’s experiences make everyone in the wrestling room better.

“It is a pretty good learning experience, because he really knows his stuff,” Meyers said. “... He is always teaching you something.”

On top, Weigel has been unstoppable this season. Hafliger said he is difficult to escape from.

“He has such great hip position,” Hafliger said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been so impressed with Preston over the years. He never gets himself out of position.”

Then once he gets his hands on an opponent’s wrist, he is extremely proficient at tilting them to their back to get back points and a possible pin.

Weigel uses a wrist roller to develop his grip. The wrist roller has a rope attached to a weight, and Weigel rolls it up until the weight gets near his hands. It is designed to strengthen hands and forearms, and he does it over and over until he no longer can do any more repetitions.

He said he has done it as many as 10 or 11 times without resting.

“If I can only get five, I’ll do it six times the next day,” Weigel said. “I keep going up day after day.”

At times, Weigel makes wrestling look easy.

For instance, he twice has defeated Goodland junior Tyler Gastineau by technical fall — two 15-0 beatdowns to who was once considered Class 4A’s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 195 pounds.

“It is so impressive,” said Hays High senior Leroy Franco, a state qualifier at 152 pounds. “I wish I could be there one day. It’s extraordinary what he does, and I’m glad we have him.”

Only one wrestler has come close to defeating Weigel this season: Newton senior Dillon Archer (32-2), the defending Class 5A state champion at 195 pounds

Weigel defeated Archer 2-0 on Jan. 26 at the Rocky Welton Invitational in Garden City and 5-0 Saturday at the regional tournament in Great Bend — Archer’s only two losses this season.

Archer is on the other side of the bracket, so if the two do meet, it will be in the championship match.

“It was a good match the first time,” Weigel said. “I didn’t really open up much, because I knew I had to wrestle him three times. I’ll
probably see him here at state again.”