WICHITA — Kian Clemens and Austin Chauncey followed similar paths to state championships Saturday at Wichita’s Hartman Arena.
Each finished third a year ago at state, each came in riding a lengthy win streak and each faced off against a Wichita Northwest Grizzly to win it all.
“They’ve won at a high rate, and to their credit, they’ve done real well,” Manhattan head coach Robert Gonzales said. “They both had great careers.”
The two each came in as top seeds and brought lengthy win streaks to Wichita, but faced tough opponents in the semifinals and championship rounds to win titles.
Chauncey won 3-1 against Northwest’s Saul Ortiz in what came down to a defensive battle after a first period takedown by Chauncey.
“After I got the two, I just tried to maintain the lead.,” Chauncey said. “I didn’t really try to set up many shots. It’s a great feeling. I’ve put in six months of work, plus all the years through kids club. I’m glad I got the job done.”
Clemens beat Shane Brock 5-2 to finish the year on top. The senior said he came out and did the same things that got him this far.
“Every match was pretty tough — I just came out and wrestled the way I know how to,” Clemens said. “This is what everybody works for — I can’t really describe this feeling.”
As a team, Manhattan finished in sixth place with 100 team points and four medalists, but came up well short of winning it all.
Garden City claimed its second straight team championship with 153.5 points, while Derby was second at 135.5. Blue Valley Northwest was third with 115 points. Junction City finished seventh.
The Indians’ other medalists were two freshmen in Mason Wallace (120) and Eldon Picou (285).
Wallace came in with a state championship in mind, but was tripped up in the quarterfinals against Olathe North’s Kelvys Gonzales. The freshman was in control of the match, up 10-2, but got caught off guard and pinned, sending him to the consolation bracket.
“It was tough,” Gonzales said. “It’s just one of those things, it can happen to anybody. But to his credit, Mason handled it like a man and came back to get third.”
Wallace rattled off four wins to finish in third place and at 39-4, is the winningest and highest-placing freshman at state in Gonzales’ coaching career.
On the other side of the coin, Picou came in as a low seed and lost his opener, but defeated Hutchinson’s Lex Plummer, who came in at 37-4 on the year, with a pin to stay alive for a medal. He ended up sixth after being pinned by Campus’ Tyler Bastian in the fifth-place match.
“Eldon has wrestled at a really high level,” Gonzales said. “For him to do what he’s doing as a freshman in this weight class, is unbelievable.”
The tournament wasn’t without disappointment. Returning state placers Mike Leeper and Josh Mullin each finished outside the medal rounds. Mullin finished at 1-2 to finish out his year wrestling up two weight classes, while Leeper lost a pair of matches in double overtime, the second in controversial fashion, to finish his year.
Gonzales said if Wallace and Leeper’s luck changed, the Indians could have been in the trophy hunt.
“I think both of those young men — and I’m a biased person here — but both of those young men should also be state champions,” he said. “And you add those 40 points we don’t have, we’re right there in the trophy hunt. It happens.”
While some of Manhattan’s freshmen made it to the medal rounds, Joe Braun (106) and Devin Norris (126) had a solid debut in the season’s biggest tournament.
Braun finished 2-2 on the weekend, winning his first match 5-1 and earning a major decision in his first consolation match before losing a 2-1 decision to Olathe Northwest’s Taylor Jokerst.
Norris finished 1-2 at state, losing his opener to a higher-seeded wrestler before winning a consolation match 7-1 over Garden City’s Thomas Marquez. Maize’s Jake Wilgers ended the freshman’s season in a 7-0 decision.
At 138, Kendrick Rivera lost his opener in a tiebreaker to Olathe North’s Stuart Schafer but rebounded to win two matches on the back side. He ended the weekend at 2-2 with a 4-3 loss to Washburn Rural’s Trent Miles.
Erick Sanchez, whose regional championship was just his second tournament win of the year, got an opening pin over Blue Valley West’s Carson Schram before dropping a 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals. Sanchez won a 10-9 decision on the backside, but was pinned by Blue Valley Northwest’s Jaquwan Stone to end his year.
For others, tough draws in the bracket made for quick exits from the tournament.
At 195, Anthony Renteria was matched up with undefeated Seth Pesek from Gardner-Edgerton and pinned in 1:07. In the consolation bracket, Renteria was also pinned to end his season.
At 113, Darrion Taylor lost his opening match in a 6-0 decision before taking a 7-0 decision from DeVonte Smith of Shawnee Mission Northwest. Taylor was pinned in his next match to end his weekend.
“I’m not a bitter loser, and even though I’m happy for our two state champions and our four medalists, but I can’t help but feel that if we’re on the side of luck, I guess, things could have gone differently,” Gonzales said. “We were really close.”