Hays High trio headed for 5A state
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School senior Preston Weigel can pin just about anybody he wants to on the mat, but it's rarely his preferred method. He likes the longer route of winning via a technical fall, which is far more demoralizing to an opponent.
"When we get into team duals where we need six points and we need him to get a pin, Preston can go out and do that," Hays High wrestling coach John Hafliger said. "But it can be real humiliating to go out and get tech falled. Just to feel so hopeless that you can't do anything. You are just at that guy's mercy. It's a 'Can you just put me out of my misery by pinning me?' type thing."
This was the case for Weigel last weekend at the team's regional in Wichita. Weigel, Class 5A's top-ranked wrestler at 195 pounds, made easy work of both his opponents after receiving a first-round bye. He finished Salina South's Cole Hoover 17-0 in 1 minute, 43 seconds, and then beat Newton's Heyden Mock 15-0 in 1:37. Mock entered regionals as the No. 6 wrestler in 5A.
But for the often reserved and forever gracious Weigel, dominating opponents in that fashion isn't just about making a statement. It's also a way to get better, which is his goal.
"It gives me a little more work that I'm going to have to have in college," Weigel said. "It will help me in the long run and it helps condition me, too, so I don't just go out and stick them right away."
While this dominance makes Weigel a scary opponent to face, it also means wrestlers will be looking to be the one to stop what could be considered the state's best pound-for-pound wrestler.
Weigel, along with Indian teammates Ethan Deterding and Vincent Scott, will travel to Hartman Arena in Park City Friday and Saturday for the Class 5A state wrestling tournament. First round matches begin at 10 a.m. Friday.
Weigel is a two-time reigning state champ, first at 170 pounds as a sophomore and then at 195 pounds as a junior. He enters the state tournament with a 36-0 record and is 159-4 in his career. He hasn't lost since the midway point of his sophomore season.
At stake is a third consecutive state title and four more wins to finish his career would place Weigel in a tie for 11th all time in the state of Kansas in wins, including all classifications, according to kansaswrestling.org.
Not to mention Weigel will have the added pressure of numerous college recruiters being in attendance to watch him wrestle.
"Is there pressure? Yeah, I think there's pressure. But Preston knows how to handle the pressure," Hafliger said. "He is so even keeled with everything. He's got DI colleges calling him and talking to him like that, and Preston is just Preston."
Weigel, who was the HDN's all-area offensive player of the year in football this season, has received plenty of attention from Division I universities for both football and wrestling.
Right now, his best offers are coming from wrestling, and Weigel hopes to make a decision sometime after state.
"There are a lot of DI colleges coming to state to watch me. We will see how that goes and see what kind of offers I get," Weigel said. "I'm looking at Oklahoma State and Northern Iowa. Wyoming is coming. Those are just a few of them. I don't know yet though. I guess it just depends on whoever gives me the best offer."
Just as important to Weigel as winning a third state title is seeing his teammates perform well. Junior Ethan Deterding, No. 3 at 182 pounds in 5A, figures to be a dark horse to win the state title. He is 31-4 this season and finished second in the Wichita regional, losing to Newton's Jared Langley, the No. 2 wrestler in 5A, via a major decision in the finals.
"He has really stepped up his level of wrestling when he got to regionals," Hafliger said. "We wanted to get him into the (regional) finals and we did that. And we knew Langley was tough. I thought we wrestled him OK. There were things we definitely saw from that match that we have to improve on for his week."
Deterding will face Leavenworth's Austin Tresner (13-15) in the first round on Friday. A win could lead to a possible second-round matchup with Lenexa-St. James's Trent Salsbury (43-1), the top-ranked wrestler at 182 pounds in 5A.
Scott, the No. 3 heavyweight wrestler in 5A, is also a medal hopeful for the Indians. The senior is 29-11 this season and took third at regionals, his only loss coming in the semifinals to Great Bend's Jacob Crane, who Scott had beaten the week before in a dual.
"Vincent is so much up and down, up and down ... but Vincent bounced back and got himself in there and finished third. I like where he is at on the bracket. I think that maybe it was a blessing that we got beat," Hafliger said. "I think he has a shot of going quite a ways on the front side. ... If Vincent gets that look and gets himself mentally focused, he will be a force to be reckoned with at state."
Scott will face Shawnee-Mill Valley's Sebastian Uriarte (10-16) in the first round. Weigel is matched up with Topeka West's Dominic Boatwright (17-9).