Winter sports begin: GCHS basketball, wrestling practices under way
By BRETT MARSHALL
By BRETT MARSHALL
It is 5:30 p.m. Monday, and the two basketball gymnasiums at Garden City High School and the wrestling practice room are a beehive of activity.
Buffaloes’ boys’ basketball coach Jacy Holloway and his staff are conducting a series of drills and conditioning workouts in the auxiliary gym for more than 60 freshmen through seniors, while girls’ head coach David Upton is going through similar drills in The Garden for more than 40 girls.
Meanwhile, on the upper level of the gymnasium, wrestling coach Carlos Prieto is winding down his practice with about 40 athletes.
It is the first day of official practices for the two main winter sports at GCHS, as well as schools in southwest Kansas and across the state.
And while football is still taking center stage for the Buffs and the Scott City Beavers, all other schools in The Telegram area are fully invested in their two winter sports. Tip-off and mat time are just a few weeks away.
For now, both Holloway and Prieto are conducting workouts without a full roster as many of those athletes are still donning pads for the Buffs, as coach Brian Hill prepares his team for Friday’s Class 6A state semifinal game, which is a 7 p.m. kickoff at Derby.
Both are excited and encouraged by the football team’s success and how that will carry over to the winter sports.
“It builds confidence for the kids and success breeds success,” said Holloway, who is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Buffs boys’ program. “The athleticism that you see in football shows up in basketball because we get a lot of the same guys.”
Prieto, too, said he expected about 10 or so football players, including Montana Fuller, Sammy Reyes, Zac Finch, to be on the mat later in the year.
“We’re trying to do more to support the football team so like this Friday we won’t practice and I want the boys to find a way to go to Derby and cheer for the football team,” Prieto said.
It should be a year of promise for this year’s Buffs wrestlers, coming off the school’s first 6A state wrestling title in 14 years.
Prieto has two returning state champions in Michael Prieto, his son and now a sophomore, and junior Tevin Briscoe.
“We had about 40 out for the first practice,” Prieto said Monday evening. “Our goals are the same — to win a state championship.”
The Buffs return six from last year’s state tourney squad, so the second-year coach is optimistic. With the season start about three weeks away, the first few days is focused on conditioning and working on fundamentals, Prieto said.
“We had a lot of kids who went to summer camp with us and have worked hard on their own in the offseason,” Prieto said.
Holloway also returns a solid nucleus from the 2013 team which qualified for state and finished 15-8. It marked the first time since 2007 that the Buffs had made an appearance in the state tourney. The former Iowa State standout and Moundridge High star has seen the Buffs progressively improve in each of his three previous seasons, having gone 8-13 and 9-12 before the breakout season a year ago.
He’ll have returning starters in seniors Tristan Nanninga and Hunter Delgado at guard, senior Emilio Parr at forward and junior Caleb Tramp at the post. Three others with varsity experience also are back in senior guard Mitchell Hernandez, junior guard Akil Love and sophomore guard Jared Koster. Among the top newcomers will likely be junior guard Miguel Olivas and junior post Luis Rodriguez.
“We’ve just gotten better each year, but I think our depth will be improved,” Holloway said. “The sophomores and juniors we have were seventh and eighth graders when we started here, so it just makes a big difference with being familiar with what we do.”
On the girls’ side, David Upton is back for his seventh season after the Lady Buffs enjoyed their most successful season in program history by going 17-4 and finishing undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference. The only disappointment, and it was a big one, was how the 2013 season came to a close.
The Lady Buffs lost to rival Dodge City 37-36 in the sub-state championship game on their home floor after a pair of 20-plus point victories over the Lady Demons.
It’s a new season, and Upton has reason for optimism about the upcoming season.
He has four starters returning in seniors Taryn Tempel, Taylor Linenberger, Jacksenie Tornero and junior Jaymie Bernbeck. Senior Tiana McKee was a part-time starter as well, while Kennedy Brunson saw plenty of court time at point guard. Senior Kristen Padilla and sophomore Jessica Carrillo also had quite a bit of playing time last season.
“Without a doubt, the most experienced team I’ve had since being here,” said Upton, who had about 45 girls out for the opening day of practice. “There will be a few tweaks, and we’ll want to get up and down the floor. For us, we’ll want to pressure the ball and be aggressive and I think we’ve got the people to do that.”
The girls’ and boys’ basketball teams will open their seasons on Dec. 5 at the Hays Shootout, while the wrestling team opens at the Amarillo, Texas, Randall Duals on Dec. 6.