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Indians head to Wichita for regional

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Hays High School has three state-ranked wrestlers heading into Saturday's Class 5A regional, hosted by Wichita Heights High School. Even with the nature of the sport, the trio is able to keep things very lighthearted in practice.

"I think between us we kind of joke around about who is better," said junior Ethan Deterding, the No. 3 wrestler at 182 pounds in Class 5A. "We just like to have fun with it. There is not any real competition. We just try to do the best we can and be the best wrestler we can be."

While the Indian wrestling team has struggled as a group much of the season, its top three have been an impressive force. Along with Deterding, who is 29-3 this season, is senior 285-pounder Vincent Scott (27-10), the No. 3 heavyweight in 5A, and senior 195-pounder Preston Weigel.

As much as the wrestlers can joke about it, the competition for the Indians' top spot isn't much of a competition. Weigel enters Saturday's regional looking to advance to next week's state tournament for the fourth time in his high school career, one that already includes two state titles, a state runner-up finish, and an undefeated match streak dating back to his sophomore season.

As a senior, Weigel is 34-0 and has held steady as the top-ranked wrestler in 5A at 195 pounds.

He is the defending 195-pound state champion and has a 157-4 career record.

"He is going two and a half years without being beaten. Everybody always wants to know if there is anyone out there that is going to push him. In wrestling all it takes is one mistake, one mess up and you can be in trouble," Hays High wrestling coach John Hafliger said. "I always have some apprehension, always have some nervousness. Preston probably handles it better than I do."

Weigel isn't expected to have too much trouble at regionals. But for Deterding and Scott, their road to state won't be as easy.

Deterding, who went 25-6 last season before having his season cut short because of an elbow injury, will more than likely run into Newton's Jared Langley, the No. 2 ranked wrestler at 182 pounds in 5A.

"It's something you wait for all year, just getting to wrestle the best people you can," Deterding said. "Him being ranked above me doesn't phase me too much, but it does make me anxious to wrestle him. I've wrestled a few guys at tournaments that are pretty close to his level and I wrestle Preston every day in the practice room, so I'm not worried too much about it."

Scott also has a Newton wrestler in his field, in this case Ray Gallegos, the No. 2 heavyweight in 5A. Scott wrestled sparingly as a freshman and didn't go out for the team as a sophomore. He returned to the mat last season and went 28-11, finishing one match short of qualifying for the state tournament.

At the tail end of his high school wrestling career, Scott feels he is in the best position he's ever been in to make that push past regionals.

"I feel a little better to be in wrestling than I did the other years," Scott said. "At the beginning (of the season) I felt like I was progressing, but for a little bit I was starting to feel lazy again. But I'm working hard to get out of that because I don't want to quit this year. This is my last year and I want to finish out strong."

Hafliger realizes it will be a long shot for anyone outside of his top three to qualify for state, but this doesn't mean he doesn't have high hopes for a few of his other wrestlers.

Despite a 4-16 record, sophomore 113-pounder Nate LaPorte has come on strong at the end of the season and Hafliger believes he is capable of winning a few matches at regionals. Also worth keeping an eye on is freshman Isaac Zimmerman (22-14 at 106 pounds), freshman Conrad Vajnar (17-16 at 126 pounds), junior Tathan Burkhart (14-10 at 160 pounds) and senior Kiowa Higdon (10-9 at 170 pounds).

And when it comes to his three ranked wrestlers, Hafliger believes there is nothing holding them back.

"I think that whole group of three -- Vincent, Preston and Ethan -- they are all right where we want them to be at this point in the season," Hafliger said. "Vincent has a tough weight class that he is going to have to compete in. And Ethan is no different. He is going to have some tough guys there. But those guys are ready for that. They've had tough competition all year."