By Brett Marshall
It’s no secret that the Rocky Welton Wrestling Invitational is the top high school tournament in Kansas.
Most coaches would even say to win the Welton is more difficult than winning a state team championship. And for good reason.
When the 61st edition hits the mat first thing Friday morning (8:30 a.m. opening round matches) at The Garden, there will be 44 schools, the largest turnout in Welton history, with 45 teams (Garden City with 2) and 435 entries.
Championship rounds will continue through the day Friday with semifinals set to begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s finals and placing matches (3rd-4th and 5th-6th) will also begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. in The Garden.
But that’s only the beginning of the storyline for this year’s Welton, which is named in honor of legendary Garden City High School coach Rocky Welton, who guided the Buffs to six Class 6A state team championships in the 1990s.
With the 22 Kansas schools alone represented, there is Goddard, currently ranked No. 1 in Class 5A and also No. 1 overall by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association. The Lions, defending state champs, also are the defending Welton champs, clipping Kearney, Neb., for the 2018 title with 226.5 points to 221.5 points. Kearney, currently the No. 1-ranked Class A (Nebraska’s largest), returns again this year.
Scott City, last year’s Class 3-2-1A state champs, are now ranked No. 1 in Class 4A while Colby now holds down the top spot in Class 3-2-1A and both schools will be represented at the Welton. There are 10 schools currently among the ranked teams in their respective classifications entered. From that group of schools, there are 63 individuals ranked in the latest KWCA rankings.
Canyon Randall, Texas, has made its way back to the Welton after an absence of several years, and the Texans currently are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A (second largest class in Texas) and bring 12 ranked individuals, including three No. 1-ranked wrestlers. They are the only Lone Star state team entered this year.
The Colorado contingent of 17 schools brings a strong representation to this year’s Welton, with six schools currently ranked in their respective classifications, led by Pomona, No. 1 in Class 5A. In that group, there are 67 state-ranked individuals.
With Nebraska’s two elite entries in Kearney (No. 1 in Class A) and Scottsbluff (No. 3 in Class B), there are 11 ranked wrestlers from those two schools. New Mexico’s top entry will be Silver, the 2018 Class 4A state team champions, who return seven medalists, including three state champions.
In all, there are 160 state-ranked wrestlers in this year’s Welton, including 20 of the 44 schools being ranked among their state elites.
Host Garden City, which placed ninth in 2018, is hoping to a return among the top five, and the Buffs will be led by seven wrestlers currently ranked among the top six in their respective weight divisions in Class 6A. Junior Jacob Holt is No. 1 at 132 pounds while juniors Silas Pineda (113) and Refujio Chairez (285) are ranked No. 2. Of the seven Buffs who are ranked, six are underclassmen.
2018 Team Standings (Top 10)
- Goddard, 226.5; 2. Kearney, Neb., 221.5; 3. Pueblo East, Colo., 180.5; 4. Pomona, Colo., 180.0; 5. Valley Center, 130.5; 6. Newton, 120.5; 7. Ponderosa, Colo., 117.0; 8. Canon City, Colo., 108.0; 9. Garden City White, 106.5; 10. Scottsbluff, Neb., 92.5.
Probable returning champions from 2018 (Current Year in School)
106: Jason Henschel, Goddard, Jr.
113: Isaiah Gamez, LaJunta, Colo., Jr.
120: Jace Trujillo, Pueblo East, Colo., Sr.
126: Phillip Moomey, Kearney, Neb., Sr.
132: Theorius Robinson, Pomona, Colo., Sr.
138: Colton Yapoujian, Pomona, Colo., Sr.
145: Dayton Porsch, Hoxie, Sr.
152: Trevor Dopps, Goddard, Jr.
170: Troy Fisher, Goddard, Sr.
195: Wyatt Hendrickson, Newton, Sr.
285: Not returning
Note: Weight classes for 2019 Welton were to be determined late Thursday night.