*Kansas Pregame will release its second annual Winter Preview late next week. This year we're trying something new by releasing some of our preview coverage of basketball and wrestling online prior to the release of our complete digital edition of the magazine, followed the second week of December by distribution of hard copies. Follow along here and on social media for complete distribution details. COACHES, don't see your team listed or have updates to your lineup? Email us details at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Girls' wrestling, in its first season as a KSHSAA sanctioned sport, will be featured in an all-class preview.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, three of the top four finishers in 6A from a year ago are atop the preseason rankings, but it isn’t defending 6A champion Derby who is on top.
GARDEN CITY, which finished third at state last year, begins this season ranked No. 1 and for good reason. The Buffaloes, which went 17-0 in duals in 2018-19, return three individual state champions in seniors Silas Pineda, Jacob Holt and Refugio Chairez. Pineda moves up from 113 pounds to 126, Holt from 132 to 138 and Chairez remains at 285. Surpisingly, Holt is the only one of the trio to be ranked No. 1 individually in his weight. Both Pineda and Chairez are second.
Garden City returns five additional state qualifiers including two-time state placer Diago Hernandez (No. 1 individually in 120), Eric Dominguez (No. 4 in 145), Josh Janas (No. 2 in 152) Jared Arrelano (No. 5 in 160) and Alex Rodriguez (No. 3 in 182).
The goal is simple: win state. It’s something the Buffaloes did three straight years from 2013 to 2016.
“Buying in to a Team First mentality is paramount to any success a team has,” eighth year head coach Carlos Prieto said. “No one remembers whether or not you win a league title or beat a certain opponent/team but they do remember how you finished at state.”
Freshmen Dakota Smith (106) and Ryan Heiman (113) begin the season ranked sixth and fourth, respectively, in their weight classes.
Second-ranked WASHBURN RURAL returns nine state qualifiers from a year ago and is led by the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 113 pounds, Bishop Murray and the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 195 pounds, Gavin Carter, who committed to Arkansas- Little Rock in June. Murray was perfect through the season, league and regionals, dropped his only match in the quarterfinals and avenged that loss in the 106-pound third-place match. Carter is seeking to return to the top of the podium where he was as a sophomore after placing third at 182 pounds last year.
Coach Damon Parker said if “everyone gets to the correct weights and we stay relatively injury free, we should have a pretty salty lineup.”
Last year, Austin Fager (160) was ranked No. 2 in the state when he was hurt at League. He checks in No. 3 in the state. The Junior Blues also return Andrew Davis (No. 4 in 285), who didn’t wrestle in 2018, but finished fifth at 220 in 2017.
Rural also returns Jacob Tangpricha (No. 3 at 106), Caleb Douglas (120), Bowan Murray (listed at 126, but currently No. 5 in 132), Gavin Collins (132), Nick Vincent (138), John Vincent (No. 6 in 145), Cole Wells (No. 6 in 152) and David Huckstep (No. 4 in 220).
Wells finished sixth at state at 145 last year while Huckstep drops down from 285 where he finished fifth.
Last year’s state champion DERBY has a lot of work to do if it wants to repeat. The Panthers lose Kobe Grijalva at 138 pounds, Cooper Ross at 145, who finished fourth at state, 152-pound state champion Crew Squires, Oklahoma State commits 170-pound third-place finisher Cade Lindsey and 182-pound champion Triston Wills, 195-pound third-place finisher Bryce Westmoreland and 285-pound fourth-place finisher Ronnie Washington.
The good news for Bill Ross is he returns six state qualifiers including five state placers.
“We are young and need to grow up super quick if we want to compete with the big boys,” Ross said. “We are excited about our young kids and need great senior leadership to help these guys out.”
Ross is talking about seniors Cody Woods (No. 1 at 106), Xavier Sisco (No. 4 at 132), Bryce Wells (No. 2 at 138), Taidon Wills (No. 2 at 182) and Tyler Allen (No. 3 at 220).
Wells and Cason Lindsey (No. 1 at 145) were runners-up a year ago in their respective weight classes, while Woods, Sisco and Wills finished fourth.
MILL VALLEY opens the year ranked fourth and is led by Army-commit Zach Keal, who begins the year ranked No. 1 in 132 after finishing third at state at 120 pounds. His brother Austin moves up from 135 to 145 and begins the year ranked third. Austin will join Washburn Rural’s Carter and Olathe North’s Keegan Slyter at Arkansas-Little Rock. Austin finished fourth at state a year ago.
In addition to the Keal brothers, the Jaguars return 220-pound champion Ethan Kremer, who moves up to 285 and will begin as the No. 1 ranked wrestler ahead of defending champion Refugio Chairez of Garden City. Kremer and Zach are both Fargo All-Americans.
“We will have great leadership and experience in the room,” coach Travis Keal said. “The key will be for each individual to progress daily.”
Mill Valley also returns two-time state qualifier in senior Tyler Green (No. 4 at 195) and juniors Brodie Scott (No. 2 at 170), Carson Dulitz (No. 6 at 138) and Kolten Jegen, who will wrestle at 220.
Freshman Eddie Hogard begins the year fifth at 106.
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After a slip in 2018 after winning the title in 2017, OLATHE NORTH begins the year fifth led by Arkansas-Little Rock commit Keegan Slyter, who begins the year No. 1 at 126 pounds. Slyter is looking to repeat as the 126-pound champion.
The Eagles return Joe Triscornia (No. 3 at 120), Gunner Murphy (No. 4 at 138), Landon Wilkes (No. 5 at 152) and Brandon Pena (No. 5 at 285).
While they lose McCoy Stoker, who finished fourth at 170 pounds, the Eagles welcome promising freshman Cael Alderman, who begins the year ranked No. 2 at 106 pounds.
In keeping with the Sunflower League, OLATHE SOUTH checks in at No. 6 with six individuals ranked in the preseason rankings after a 10th place showing at state.
The Falcons return state-placers Ben Bluel (fifth at 126), who finished fifth at state at 126, Dallas Koelzer (No. 2 at 132), who finished third in the same class, Bobby Thomas moves up to 152 and is ranked third after finishing sixth at 138. They also return state qualifiers Tyler Johnson (third at 113), Mateo Palma, Jonah Hall, Gavin Brown (No. 2 at 160), Zach Leskovac, Jarek Braden and Alec Younggren (No. 6 at 220).
DODGE CITY will be led by Damian Mendez (No. 2 at 113) after winning the 106-pound title in 2018 and Garret Edwards (No. 2 at 145), who won the 138-pound title.
Jashon Taylor took fifth at 160 and moves up to 170 where he’s ranked first. The Red Demons also return state qualifiers Danny Rojas (No. 6 at 126), Marcelino Otero (No. 4 at 152) and Armando Monreal. However, they lose 120-pound champion Couy Weil and 285-pound third place finisher Evan Darville to graduation.
Last year’s runner-up, MANHATTAN, which was only three points behind Derby for first, loses a ton of production in the heavier classes, but returns a lot of young talent in the lighter weights.
While the Indians lose 160-pound champion Bubba Wilson, runners-up Quincy Saddler (170) and Christian Schlepp (220), 182-pound third-place-finisher Stephen White and 138-pound fourth-place finisher Jacob Mitchell, they return Easton Taylor (No. 4 at 126), Tate Sauder (No. 6 at 132), Blaisen Bammes (No. 3 at 138), Island-Jones twins Darius (No. 6 at 160) and Daron (No. 2 at 170), and Damian Ililio (No. 3 at 285).
Taylor took third at 113 a year ago, Sauder finished sixth at 120, Bammes placed fifth at 132, Daron Island-Jones finished fourth at 152 and Ililio took sixth at 285.
The Indians also return state qualifier Tucker Brunner, who wrestled at 126 last year.
WICHITA WEST brings back five state qualifiers including Quentin Saunders, who as a freshman won the 170-pound title and will look to repeat this year at 182 where he begins the season ranked No. 1.
Germany Washington, who took sixth at 106, begins the year ranked fifth at 120. Two-time state qualifier Samuel Rushin is ranked No. 5 at 170 while state-qualifier Mario Perez begins the year fifth at 220. Wichita West also brings back state qualifier Jerome Ragin, who will wrestle at 195.
Pioneers coach Kenny Taylor said the key to success is staying healthy and giving 100 percent every time they step on the mat.
Rounding out the preseason top 10 is HAYSVILLE CAMPUS, which finished fifth at state and begins the year with Nathan Bowen (No. 1 at 152) and Dylan Sheler (No. 2 at 120) ranked individually.
Bowen and Sheler both finished second at 138 and 106, respectively.
The Colts will have to replace runners-up Kale McCraken (113), Luke Bowen (152) and Brycen Schroeder (195), sixth-place finisher Garin Williams (220) and Jacob Beehler (285), but they bring back state qualifiers Elissio Martinez and Derek Sheler.
KC HARMON begins the year with three wrestlers ranked individually and should be the favorite to win the Kansas City-Atchison League Championship.
Seniors Mark Hernandez (No. 4 at 106), Kevin Rosales (No. 6 at 1130 and Salvadore Aleman (No. 3 at 195) will lead the way after losing Isaac French (145) and Marco Gomez (182) to graduation.
Jackson Stroud is the lone state qualifier returning for WICHITA NORTH after he placed fifth at 220. He comes in ranked second to begin the year.
Coach Quinton Burgess likes the direction his program his heading as he enters his third season.
“I am very encouraged with the upperclassmen we have going into this season,” Burgess said. ”This is the first time since I have been here that we have had our lineup dominated by upperclassmen, which should help us to be more competitive this season.”
Salvador Ornelas at 285 has been hindered with some injuries the last couple years but is a two-time USAWKS state qualifier and could have an outstanding year.
Kale Mann’s BLUE VALLEY squad has some nice pieces for a team that finished 11th at state.
"We will need our experienced wrestlers to take another step forward,” Mann said. “As underclassmen they have shown flashes of their ability, that needs to be the consistent performance level. We will have a few weight classes with wrestlers that have not competed at the varsity level. They will need to make the adjustment and become consistent performers in the line-up.”
The Tigers are led by Trevor Lister (No. 1 at 220), who took third a year ago. They also return two-time state qualifiers Caleb Burleigh (No. 6 at 120) and Luke Hyland (145), state-qualifier Evan Taylor (No. 6 at 285) as well as Bryce Goswick (152) and Alex Daniels (195).
Mann is hoping for 10 state qualifiers, a top six finish at state and to finish third at every tournament this season.
GARDNER-EDGERTON will be strong in the heavier weight classes as the Trailblazers return Logan McDonald (No. 5 at 145), three-time state qualifier AJ Rodriguez (No. 4 at 160), Caden Rodriguez (No. 6 at 182) and Gus Davis (No. 2 at 195), who finished fifth at 182 a year ago in Missouri.
Coach Tyler Cordts also returns state-qualifiers Dean Marshall (106), Lucas Anderson (120), Collin Smith (126) and Gerald Picardo (285).
“The keys to success will be hard work, battling through adversity and giving 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time,” Cordts said.
SHAWNEE MISSION NORTHWEST returns one senior and zero state qualifiers, but Howard Newcomb’s Cougars are positioned for future success with 11 freshmen or sophomores.
Billy Scarlett at 170 is the lone senior with Tyler Munsayakham at 113 and Melvin Horner-Luettel at 195 the other upperclassmen.
“It is going to be a challenging season with one senior and a couple of juniors in the lineup this season,” Newcomb said. “Good news for the future is a lot of freshman and sophomores will be getting plenty of varsity experience.”
JUNCTION CITY first-year coach Tyler Gonzales is hoping to improve on last year’s results with three state qualifiers returning in Zane Thornton (126), CJ Neuman (145) and Sadiki Smith (182).
Gonzales also brings back Hayden Diestelkamp (120), Andrew Petrusky (132), Gavin Lujan (152), James Hancock (160), Arturo Chavez (220) and Jonathan Dennard (285).
SHAWNEE MISISON EAST’s Charles Kallemeier (106) is the lone returning state qualifier for the Lancers, which also returns Brady Frankhauser and Jerald Young.
Tom Peterman is hoping his SHAWNEE MISSION NORTH team has a fuller roster after he finished last year with six wrestlers and only four were healthy. Three-time state qualifier Alex Williams (285), two-time state qualifiers Aidan Randal (126) and Justus Hulse (138) return along with Cruz Ibarra.
The goals for OLATHE WEST in year three is simple: Win a team tournament championship, qualify more than five for state, have its first individual state medalist.
Guy Hosford (190) is a two-time state qualifier and gives third-year coach Tyler Rodden maybe his best chance for a medalist. Cole Newport (120) also returns.
WICHITA SOUTH will lean on Malachi Karibo (No. 1 at 160) along with Zach Trenkamp (No. 5 at 113).
Karibo fell in the 160-pound title fight last year.