GARDEN CITY – It came as no surprise that the Goddard Lions prevailed as the team champion on Saturday, Feb. 1, in the 62nd annual Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament.
The Lions came in as the odds-on favorite, having won the prestigious Welton team title in both 2018 and 2019, being the overall Kansas top-ranked team in 2020, and coming off an impressive dual meet triumph in Oklahoma where they beat nationally-ranked teams Allen, Texas, and Mustang, Okla.
So when Saturday’s championship and medal-placing matches ended, the Lions of coach Brett Means had captured four individual titles, a pair of runner-up finishes and a third-place medal as well. The Lions tallied 219.5 points, easily out-pacing Pueblo East, Colo., with 181.5 points. Highly-regarded Windsor, Colo. was third with 179 points.
Now in his 14th season, Means has built a powerhouse program in Goddard, having won the last five Class 5A state titles to add on to his three consecutive crowns in 2008-09-10. His first year was 2007 and the Lions had won just once state team title prior to that in 1999.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with the way the kids wrestled,” Means said on Monday, a couple of days removed from the Welton tourney, which attracted 40 schools from five states. “I like where we’re at, but at this time of year the key to success is staying healthy.”
Means understands all too well about the quality of wrestlers at the Welton. All told, there were more than 125 state-ranked wrestlers competing and when the 120-pound division put six wrestlers on the mat for the medal-placing matches, there were five state champions battling, while another state champ didn’t even make the top six.
“It’s the toughest tournament in Kansas by a long shot,” Means said of the Welton, which is named for the long-time Garden City High School coach Rocky Welton, who guided the Buffs to six Class 6A state championships in the 1990s. “You see a different mix of kids, and in all honesty, we’ve traveled more out of state and so we hadn’t seen as many Kansas teams, except when we were at the Newton (Tournament of Champions) event a couple of weeks ago.”
Of the 14 weight divisions, nine of them were won by Kansas wrestlers.
Newton freshman Nick Treaster (27-1) won the 106-pound division with a 1-0 triumph over Isaiah Blackmon of Lewis-Palmer, Colo. Dodge City sophomore Damian Mendez (33-1) earned the 113-pound title with a dominating 19-5 major decision over Archer Heelan of Kearney, Neb. At 126 pounds, Olathe North senior Keegan Slyter (46-1) took a 5-0 win over Brett Umentum of Blue Valley-Southwest in a battle between top 6A and 5A wrestlers.
Goddard’s Jace Fisher, a junior (30-8), captured the 152-pound weight class with a 5-4 nail-biter over Class 5A New Mexico champion Maxon Box of Carlsbad. Another of Means’ quality wrestlers, junior Cayleb Atkins (32-2) pinned Jaydn Heaton of Class 5A Texas ranked Canyon Randall in the second period.
Blue Valley-Southwest senior Seth Nitzel remained unbeaten in the 170-pound division at 31-0 with an 8-3 decision over Pine Creek, Colo.’s Draygan Colonese. In the 195-pound division, Goddard sophomore Kaden Glass (19-3) won a 13-4 major decision over Mitchell Peabody of La Junta, Colo.
St. James Academy’s Cade Lautt (33-1) finished as champion at 220-pounds with a pin at 2:58 of the second period over Mack Hubbell of Blue Valley-Southwest. Last year, Lautt was second to then Newton senior Wyatt Hendrickson who is now wrestling at Air Force Prep. In the 285-pound class it was Goddard senior Devon Dawson (27-4) squeaking out a last-second, 5-4 decision over Andy Garcia of Pueblo East, Colo.
“We were really excited to see Windsor (Colo., the 4A No. 1-ranked team) this weekend,” Means said of the third-place team finisher behind runner-up Pueblo East’s 181.5. “They have some incredible kids, so it’s just always interesting to see the different styles of wrestling you get from the different states. That’s one of the things we like about coming to Garden City.
“As long as I can, I want to keep going to Garden City for the tournament. They do an amazing job of running the tournament, and it’s just a great environment in which to wrestle. (Garden City coach Carlos) Prieto and his people do an awesome job.”
Means credited his decade-plus success to the kids wrestling program started by Max Fisher years ago – the Kansas Young Guns.
“We’re reaping the benefits of all those kids and we still have six to seven of them on the roster,” Means said. “Our parents haul their kids all over the country to compete. I can tell you if you don’t have good athletes and good kids, you’re not gonna be very good. You can’t make diamonds out of dust.”
If one could single out a family that is steeped in tradition and success in Kansas wrestling history, it might be difficult to go any further than the Treaster family.
Today, the family flag flies high with the family with brothers Grant and Nick competing for the Newton Railroaders in Class 5A.
They follow in the footsteps of older brother Logan, who graduated in 2017 after a four-year prep career in which he went 140-9, captured a Welton title his freshman season, and placed third, first, second and third at the 5A state tournament during his time with the Railers.
Logan is now a junior at the U.S. Naval Academy where he is currently ranked No. 20 in the NCAA 125-pound division. Logan’s current record is 17-6 for the Midshipmen.
Grant is a senior at Newton, currently sporting a 33-3 record, and took fifth in that murderer’s row 120-pound division, defeating hometown favorite Silas Pineda. Those two claimed state titles in 5A and 6A a year ago. Grant has a pair of thirds, a second and a fifth in his four-year travels to the Welton while placing third and claiming two 5A state titles at 113 and 120 pounds in 2018 and 2019.
The youngest of the three siblings – Nick – has quickly made his mark on the state wrestling scene, racking up a 27-1 record this season and claimed a title at 106 pounds in his first appearance in the Welton.
This success should come as no surprise since the trio of brothers’ father, Matt, was himself a four-time state champion (the third to do so from 1981 to 1984) while competing at Beloit High School, helping his Trojans to three Class 3-2-1A team titles and a Class 4A crown his senior year.
The elder Treaster has watched all three of his sons compete, but has also tried to keep enough distance as a dad as to not interfere.
“They overlap each other with some similar skills,” the proud father said of his sons. “Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Logan is a very control type wrestler while Nick is more free-flow and moving all over the place. Grant is a mix of the two. All have some core moves by keeping good position throughout a match.”
Treaster has been in attendance at most of his son’s matches through the years, and enjoys coming to Garden City to see how they fare at the talent-rich Welton Invitational.
“It’s just a great tournament,” Matt Treaster said of the Garden City tourney. “They have great facilities, community support as a whole and it’s very well run. They use six mats most of the tournament and it goes so much faster. It’s one of the best events I see all year.”
The elder Treaster should know. After all, he had a sterling 123-2 high school record and then went on to an NCAA career at the U.S. Naval Academy, too, lettering all four years and placing fifth his senior year in the NCAA tourney to earn All-American honors.
“The thing that’s so impressive with the Welton is the overall depth of each weight class,” Matt Treaster said. “That 120-pound division was unbelievable. The runner-up (Weston Dalton of Pueblo East) is a national champion freestyle and Greco. I’ve never seen that many highly-ranked kids in one weight class. All those matches were close and any one of the six could have won.”
OTHER WELTON HIGHLIGHTS
The champion of that tough 120-pound division was Isaiah Gamez of La Junta, Colo., who is 25-1 and finished his four years at the Welton as a three-time champion and fifth-place finisher. His title was a hard-fought 4-2 decision over Pueblo East’s Weston Dalton.
Olathe North’s Slyter is nationally-ranked at 126 pounds. Windsor, Colo. senior Dominick Serrano, the 132-pound champion, is now 159-0 in his high school career. Serrano’s senior teammate, Isaiah Salazar at 182 pounds, is also unbeaten this season at 28-0. Those two were named the Outstanding Wrestlers of the lower and higher weight divisions by a vote of the coaches.
There were multiple wrestlers who will be going to Division I schools next year to compete.
Team Scores: 1. Goddard, 219.5; 2. Pueblo East, Colo., 181.5; 3. Windsor, Colo., 179.0; 4. Blue Valley-Southwest, 176.5; 5. Kearney, Neb., 168.5; 6. Canyon Randall, Texas, 131.0; 7. Olathe South, 123.5; 8. Dodge City, 119.5; 9. Great Bend, 112.0; 10. Olathe North, 105.0; 11. St. James Academy, 95.5; 12. Carlsbad, N.M., 90.5; 13. Lewis-Palmer, Colo., 84.0; 14. Emporia, 83.5; 15. La Junta, Colo., 82.5; 16. Andale, 81.5; 17. Scott City, 80.5; 18. Garden City-Brown, 79.5; 19. Ulysses, 79.0; 20. Lamar, Colo., 77.5; 21. Newton, 73.0; 22. Pine Creek, Colo., 70.0; 23. Valley Center, 68.5; 24. Republic County, 59.0; 25. Lawrence-Free State, 48.0; 26. Liberal, 44.0; 27. El Dorado, 37.5; 28. Scottsbluff, Neb., 31.0; 29. Eagle Crest, Colo., 26.0; 30. Hays, 25.0; 31. Canon City, Colo., 18.0; 32. Garden City-White, 16.0; 33. Pueblo Centennial, Colo., 13.0; 34. Wichita County, 12.0; 35. Air Academy, Colo., 9.0; 36. Doherty, Colo., Hugoton, 6.0; 38. Holcomb, 4.0; 39. Bear Creek, Colo., 3.
Individual Championship Matches
106—Nick Treaster, Newton (27-1) dec. Isiah Blackmon, Lewis-Palmer, Colo. (29-3), 1-0
113—Damian Mendez, Dodge City (33-1) maj. Dec. over Archer Heelan (29-5), Kearney, Neb., 19-5
120—Isaiah Gamez, La Junta, Colo. (25-1) dec. Weston Dalton, Pueblo East (25-4), Colo., 4-2
126—Keegan Slyter, Olathe North (46-1) dec. Brett Umentum (32-4), Blue Valley-SW, 5-0
132—Dominick Serrano, Windsor, Colo. (34-0) dec. Jerrdon Fisher (9-1), Goddard, 11-4
138—Vance Vombaur, Windsor, Colo. (31-2) dec. Brayden Smith, Kearney (32-2), 4-0
145—Aaden Valdez, Pueblo East, Colo. (26-4) dec. Gage Fritz, Great Bend (33-1), 7-1
152—Jace Fisher, Goddard (30-8) dec. Mason Box, Carlsbad, N.M. (30-4), 5-4
160—Cayleb Atkins, Goddard (32-2) pinned Jaydn Heaton, Canyon Randall, Texas (4-1), 4:11
170—Seth Nitzel, Blue Valley-SW (31-0) dec. Draygan Colonese, Pine Creek, Colo. (32-4), 8-3
182—Isaiah Salazar, Windsor, Colo. (28-0) maj. dec. over Trevor Dopps, Goddard (30-5), 11-0
195—Kaden Glass, Goddard (19-3) maj. dec. over Mitchell Peabody, La Junta, Colo. (23-5), 13-4
220—Cade Lautt, St. James Academy (33-1) pinned Mack Hubbel, Blue Valley-SW (26-2), 2:58
285—Devon Dawson, Goddard (27-4) dec. Andy Garcia, Pueblo East, Colo. (24-3), 5-4
Editor’s Note: Brett Marshall is a retired sports writer living in Garden City, Kansas. He spent 20 years covering high school sports at newspapers in Fort Scott, Dodge City, Hutchinson, Salina and Garden City. He compiled a book in conjunction with the Kansas State High School Activities Association in 2019 entitled: “Under the Lights: 50 Years of KSHSAA Football Playoffs.”
62nd Rocky Welton Invitational