It may have been senior night for the Manhattan High wrestling team on Thursday, but it was a freshman who ended up being the hero.
Pitching a shutout through 13 weight classes, it was up to freshman heavyweight Florian Theisen — making his varsity debut — to keep Clay Center off the board in the final match of the evening. Down 2-0 in the third period, it almost didn’t happen.
But Theisen got his opponent, Tiger freshman Evan Standlea, into a headlock and was able to topple him over for a match-tying takedown with 26 seconds left on the clock. From there, Theisen nearly got the pin with the move as time expired, resulting in a 5-2 win that gave the group of seven seniors something to cheer about as the meet concluded.
“He’s been working hard — he’s never missed a practice,” Manhattan High coach Robert Gonzalez said. “He takes a lot of ribbing as a freshman, lots of jokes.”
Theisen’s win capped a dominant night for the Indians, with a 73-0 shutout win against a Clay Center squad that featured a trio of open weights and no seniors on the mat. Manhattan is now 12-3 on the year.
“They had a couple boys not make weight, which hurt them, and they’ve had some injuries and they’re young,” Gonzalez said. “We got on a roll there early.”
Manhattan got pins in its first four matches, to take a commanding early lead. The Indians would end the night with seven.
Seniors Jase Stone, Caleb Gorman, Dallas Vesta, Davis Matthews, Michael Forshee, Chance Drake and CJ Mooreman-Meador all picked up wins in their final home matches, with Darrion Taylor, Kian Clemens, Michael Leeper, and Theisen also winning. Josh Mullin, Austin Chauncey and Schandon Mercado won by forfeits.
While all of his wrestlers competed well on the night, Gonzalez was especially proud of the way his bigger guys wrestled.
“I’d like to take credit, but it wasn’t me,” he said. “The big guys did a great job. I’m really excited about our team and what they’ve accomplished.”
With both teams in the heart of K-State country, the match was moved from its originally-scheduled start time of 6:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s senior night, we do want to recognize these seniors, but I think about everyone in this county is a K-State fan, so we did the right thing, moved it up,” Gonzalez said. “Their AD is a big K-State fan, so we agreed.”
Gonzalez said he expects to see the Tigers rebound soon, despite the humbling final score.
“I think the score was a little unbalanced because Clay Center is down and has some injuries,” he said. “Their coach is a wonderful coach — he’s a genuine coach. I’m sure we’ll see them back up.
“For us to get a shutout in our only home meet, on senior night, we’ll remember this one.”
BASKETBALL TRAVELS TO SHAWNEE HEIGHTS
Both the Manhattan High girls’ and boys’ basketball teams open up the new year with a trip to Shawnee Heights tonight.
The Manhattan girls (5-0) will try to stay undefeated against the Thunderbirds (2-3), who won their final game of 2012 against Topeka West, 42-33.
The boys’ team ended December with a 3-2 record, losing to a pair of ranked teams. Shawnee Heights brings a 2-3 record to the game, with losses to Lawrence Free State, Seaman and Lansing.