By AUSTIN COLBERT
The legend -- and dominance -- of former Hays High School wrestler Preston Weigel was summed up in one brief moment during last season's Class 5A 195-pound state title match and is one of The HDN's top stories for 2014.
Weigel hadn't allowed a single point throughout the two days of the state tournament leading to the final match. In fact, only one had made it past the first round. While he was good enough to pin most opponents, he preferred the route of technical falling his adversaries, a way to both get more time on the mat and as a way to slowly demoralize his opponent.
Then in the title match, against Blue Valley Southwest's Austin McBee, ranked No. 3 in 5A, Weigel did something unthinkable. He let McBee up, sacrificing a point and ending his perfect run through the tournament.
"Everybody was probably like, 'Oh my gosh, he let him up,'" Weigel said after the match. "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."
Yes, the only point Weigel allowed during the entirety of the state tournament was given up by choice just to prove a point.
Although, by that time in Weigel's career, few people doubted his abilities. The win over McBee gave Weigel a third straight state title and second at 195 pounds after he won the 170-pound title as a sophomore. He was also state runner-up at 145 pounds as a freshman.
Weigel ended his high school career with a 163-4 record, including a 40-0 mark as a senior in 2013-14. Three of his four losses came as a freshman, the other as a sophomore. He didn't lose a single match as a junior or senior.
"In my 25 years, without a doubt, Preston is the most dominant athlete from top to bottom that Hays High has seen," HHS wrestling coach John Hafliger said after the state tournament. "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 was also a standout football player for the Indians, where he was named the 2013 HDN area Offensive Player of the Year and was even named to last summer's Shrine Bowl roster. While he did hold some offers to play football collegiately, it was always going to be wrestling for him.
In April, he signed with Oklahoma State University, fulfilling a lifelong dream. OSU is one of the powerhouse wrestling programs in the country, holding a Division I record 34 national championships. Its coach, John Smith, won five of those titles with OSU and is a two-time NCAA wrestling champion in his own right and even won gold medals in both the 1988 and 1992 Olympic games.
"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," Weigel said on the day he signed. "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."
With Weigel now at Oklahoma State, his absence is noticeable on the wrestling mat at Hays High this season. But his legend is something that will live on forever, and something Hafliger hopes this year's team won't soon forget.
"We are not looking to replace Preston or anything like that. Preston left quite a legacy here and he set the bar real high for all of our kids," Hafliger said prior to the start of the 2014-15 season.
"You accomplish those things through hard work and dedication and through all the extra time and extra effort you put in. So that's kind of what we use Preston as -- a role model. Even though Preston is not in that room we still have kids and aspire to be at that level Preston was at."