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HHS wrestling gets started Saturday

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Having to wrestle against Hays High School senior Preston Weigel isn't much fun. Even his teammates, who are forced to wrestle against him in practice each day, don't find much joy in it.

"It's a way for me to make myself better and improve on what I need to work on," senior heavyweight wrestler Vincent Scott said. "He wins, but my goal is to try my best to beat him every time I wrestle. There might be bigger and stronger, but Preston has the technique down and that's what I need to work on myself."

Weigel, the defending 195-pound state champion, should once again be the Indians' bright spot when they get the season started on Saturday at the Campus High School Invitational in Haysville.

Weigel will wrestle at 195 pounds again this season after flirting with the idea of moving up to 220. But Weigel, the feature running back for the football team and one of the area's top players this season, was 198 pounds at the alpha weigh in, making the decision easier.

"I honestly thought he was closer to 220 than what he was -- so 195 is a perfect fit for him," Hays High wrestling coach John Hafliger said. "It's always something special when you are the defending state champion and you are returning at that weight class. I think that makes it that much more special for him, to be at that same weight class and defend your title."

Weigel has proven himself to be pound-for-pound one of the best wrestlers in the state during his high school career, if not the best. In addition to his 195-pound title last year, Weigel was the 170-pound champion as a sophomore and was the state runner up at 145 pounds as a freshman.

He has a career record of 123-4, with three of the losses coming as a freshman. Weigel was 42-0 last season en route to his second state title.

"I think at 195 I will have more competition than 220. It will be a bigger weight difference," Weigel said about the decision. "I've been working hard and I feel I'll be ready to go. To win a state title and go on to some national wrestling tournaments like I did last year."

Weigel won't be the only wrestler with state title aspirations for the Indians. Junior Ethan Deterding is entering the season with high expectations, both from himself and his coach.

Deterding, who had a breakout season playing linebacker for the football team, was 25-6 last season as a wrestler before having his season cut short because of an elbow injury.

"It really sucked not being able to finish last year's season," Deterding said. "So I'm really anxious to get back to it this year and my goal is pretty much to win state."

As a freshman, Deterding placed sixth at state at 152 pounds. He will wrestle at 182 pounds this season and constantly goes up against bigger athletes in Weigel and Scott during practice.

"Honest to goodness, some of the toughest competition these guys have are right in our room," Hafliger said. "He's probably not going to face anybody stronger, anybody tougher than Preston this year. Very, very impressed with Ethan. I have very high hopes for him. Definitely would like to see him in the state finals. That's my goal for him."

Scott will be the other wrestler with a chance to make some noise this season. Scott wrestled sparingly as a freshman and never wrestled as a sophomore. But he returned to the mat as a junior last season and finished 28-11 and was one match away from the state tournament.

Scott enters the season at 245 pounds and will compete in the heavyweight division, which tops out at 285 pounds.

"Honestly, he is one of the most athletic kids in our room," Hafliger said of Scott. "Here is a guy that weighs 245 pounds and can do backflips and hand springs and is extremely, extremely athletic. A strong kid, very strong kid."

Hafliger admits the team should fair well in tournaments this season with its big three of Weigel, Deterding and Scott. But duals could be a different story as the Indians have little experience beyond that.

Senior Kiowa Higdon, who will wrestle at 170 pounds, looks to be one of the most experienced returners, having gone 19-8 last year competing at both JV and varsity. Senior Russ Kohl struggled a season ago going 5-30 at 126 pounds, but did qualify for state at 106 pounds in 2012. He will move up to 145 pounds this season.

Sophomore Ross Hattan is one of the younger wrestlers Hafliger hopes will step up big this season. Hattan was 21-15 last year at 113 pounds and will wrestle at 126 pounds this season.

"The learning curve is going to be pretty steep for some of these guys because it's such a huge difference between varsity wrestling and JV wrestling, but I think as the season goes along we are going to have some pretty good kids," Hafliger said.

"I'm anxious about Saturday and I'm anxious about going down to Campus and wrestling those teams. Honestly, I'm not sure where this team is. They practice hard, they go hard, they just don't have a whole lot of varsity experience."

The Indians will be the host team three times this, the first coming at a dual on Dec. 19.