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Weigel rolls to third straight title

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

PARK CITY -- Hays High School senior Preston Weigel fondly remembers wrestling as a freshman. At the time there were no expectations, no pressure and nothing to distract him from his competition.

"You didn't have to worry about anything. You got nothing on your back," Weigel said. "You just go out and wrestle. Which that's what you want to do all the time, but you get more of a target on our back when you are real good and get older."

That target grew to gargantuan proportions after Weigel won the 170-pound Class 5A state title as a sophomore and the 195-pound title as a junior. He entered his senior season ranked No. 1 at 195 pounds and the pressure for him to repeat as champion was definitely there.

Only it was impossible to tell as Weigel steamrolled through his competition on Saturday at Hartman Arena in Park City, going virtually untouched on his way to his third-straight state title.

"He's got so many physical attributes that set him apart from everybody else, but I think the true separator for Preston is his ability to handle high-pressure situations," Hays High coach John Hafliger said. "Nothing seems to get him rattled. He is just so levelheaded."

And it's not just that Weigel won, but how he won. In three matches on Friday, Weigel won via technical fall each time, only his semifinal match against Emporia's Sage Eckman, then ranked No. 2, reaching the second round.

Saturday's title match against Blue Valley Southwest's Austin McBee, ranked No. 3 in 5A, ended much the same, a 16-1 technical fall win for Weigel five seconds into the second round.

The point he gave up to McBee -- the only point he gave up the entire state tournament -- was a point Weigel allowed just to prove a point.

"Everybody was probably like, 'Oh my gosh, he let him up,' " Weigel said. "But I just wanted to show some people some different stuff. A lot of people didn't think I was as good on my feet so I showed them more on my feet. I'm good on the ground but I'm also pretty good on my feet."

Weigel's third straight title also gives him a second consecutive perfect season. Weigel, who hasn't lost since his sophomore year, ends his Hays High career at 163-4, 40-0 this season. Three of his four losses came as a freshman, when he was the 145-pound runner-up at state.

"In my 25 years, without a doubt, Preston is the most dominant athlete from top to bottom that Hays High has seen," Hafliger said. "When you can come down to the state tournament and wrestle the best in Class 5A and to tech. fall everybody in either the first round or within 20 seconds of the second period is impressive. I honestly don't know if that's ever been done."

Weigel wasn't alone on the podium, either. Hays High 182-pound junior Ethan Deterding and heavyweight senior Vincent Scott both advanced through the consolation bracket and into the third-place match after losing on Friday.

Both wrestlers lost in their final match -- Deterding to Bishop Carroll's Tommy Marquez and Scott to Great Bend's Jacob Crane, who also beat him at regionals --  to finish fourth in their respective weight classes.

"It was the first time we brought three people and placed everybody," Weigel said. "That's what you want. I had confidence in them and knew they both should place and they did. They got it done. They worked hard and they deserved it."

Hays High finished 13th out of 30 in the team standings, with Lenexa-St. James Academy winning the overall team title.