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HHS' Weigel becomes a Cowboy

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Before Preston Weigel was even a teenager, his parents would take him to Oklahoma for national wrestling tournaments such as the Tulsa Nationals and Kickoff Classic. Somewhere in that time frame Weigel developed this dream of possibly wrestling for Oklahoma State University, located just down the road in Stillwater.

"When he was wrestling at 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old he kept saying that was where he was going to go," said Tammy Weigel, Preston's mother. "And we are at the moment now, and it's hard to believe. But I don't think his journey is over by any means. He is going to keep going. He's still got a lot of big dreams, and I think he is going to work hard to get there."

The first part of those dreams was fulfilled on Wednesday in the Hays High School cafeteria, when the HHS senior signed his National Letter of Intent to wrestle for Oklahoma State next season.

The signing is among the greatest in Hays High history. OSU is a national powerhouse in wrestling, holding the Division I record for national championships with 34, the most recent team title coming in 2006.

Cowboys' head coach John Smith is a legend in the sport, having led OSU to five national titles since taking over in 1992. On top of that, Smith was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion and six-time world champion, winning gold medals in both the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games.

And last Thursday, Smith was sitting in the Weigel's home in Russell, closing the deal on one of OSU's top recruits.

"It was nice to get with him and spend some time with him ... I really like him and that means a lot to get along with your coach," said Weigel, who will wrestle at 197 pounds for the Cowboys. "Their coaching staff is the main thing. They have a great coaching staff and they have great kids on their team. That's going to help me progress and be the best I can be."

Weigel first took an unofficial visit to OSU in February and was able to attend the Cowboys' home duel against the University of Oklahoma. Around that same time he spent two days in Stillwater on an official visit and finally made his decision late last week.

He chose OSU over numerous other schools, including Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Idaho and Wyoming. Weigel also held many offers, mostly from junior colleges, to play football, an idea he toyed with for many months.

Weigel was a star running back for the Indians' football team this season. He was named to the 2014 Kansas Shrine Bowl roster, which will be held July 26 at Pittsburg State University, a game Weigel still intends to play in.

"It's kind of like Preston finally saw the light," HHS wrestling coach John Hafliger joked of Weigel choosing wrestling over football. "I am excited for Preston and I'm excited for his family. I think he has a great, great opportunity at Oklahoma State. He is going to fit in very well with that program down there."

Hafliger, who has been at the school for 25 years, called Weigel "without a doubt the most dominating athlete that I've ever seen come through Hays High." And with numbers like Weigel has, it's difficult to argue.

In four years as a varsity wrestler at Hays High, Weigel amassed a record of 163-4, including a 40-0 mark as a senior. Three of his four losses came as a freshman when he was the 145-pound Class 5A state runner-up. His only other loss came as a sophomore en route to the 170-pound state title.

Weigel was virtually unstoppable as a junior and senior, winning every match in that time and winning back-to-back 195-pound 5A state championships. He also won two national wrestling tournaments in Colorado and Iowa since the conclusion of the 2014 season, helping solidify him as one of the top recruits in the region.

"It feels real good knowing that I got to practice with someone of his ability," said HHS junior wrestler Ethan Deterding, one of Weigel's main practice partners and a fourth-place finisher at 182 pounds in the state tournament. "He's really made me a lot better through the years. He's not just a good wrestler for himself; he's made a lot of other people better. I'm real happy to see him go on to something big like this."