With double-digit snow totals all over the state, it’s hard to imagine state wrestling weekend going smoothly for anyone involved.
KSHSAA has amended the schedule — twice — and is doing what it can to keep things on track and allow each team the necessary time to travel safely.
For Manhattan High, that means an extra full day of preparation, as coach Robert Gonzales, as well as the administration, opted to send the Indians down to Wichita ahead of the weather. The Indians skipped their state send-off ceremony on Wednesday and instead hit the road, arriving in Newton that afternoon.
Gonzales said the amended schedule has its positives and negatives.
“What happens is you have to make adjustments to the site you were going, for the hotel, the meals, the meal money, who can eat, what they can’t eat,” Gonzales said. “Now you get to monitor your athletes an extra day, as opposed to just the day before. So we want to get workouts in. We secured a workout site at Newton High School, calling in some favors.”
Gonzales’s biggest concern with leaving a day early was another lost day of school, though all students missed school Thursday and Friday because of the snow. The coach said the extra day affords him the chance to get his team completely focused on wrestling.
“The kids are happy to get out of school,” he said. “It’s an extra day. Now, we’re going to approach it from a college schedule. We’ll have two practices today and totally focus on wrestling. We’ll do some running, get an aerobic workout, because we need that structure.
“At school you’re occupied by school and you have structure. You take away that structure, and you have chaos. And we don’t want chaos with teenagers.”
KSHSAA has changed the schedule to start late today and include more matches on Saturday. Today’s weigh-in begins at 2 p.m., with first-round matches starting at 4 p.m.
Saturday’s schedule includes championship semifinals and consolation matches starting at 9 a.m., with consolation quarterfinals at 10:45 a.m. and consolation semifinals at 12:30 p.m.
In an effort to save time, the third- and fifth-place matches will run simultaneously with the championship matches. Normally the first-place matches are on their own.
Gonzales said the schedule changes don’t affect his outlook for the Indians, which he thinks have enough wrestlers to go far.
“I think we have a great opportunity to win a trophy,” Gonzales said. “Now it depends on how we match up in the second round. I think a lot of the first-round matches are good — we have great opportunities to get pinfalls. If we do that and get six pinfalls and take a big lead, we’ll be in great shape.”
Gonzales said he wasn’t sure how his team will fare, but likes their chances.
“Realistically, we’ll probably have four in the finals,” he said. “It’s a great day if four make the finals, it’s a good day if two make it.
“I could see us landing anywhere between winning it all, or having a bad round, a bad referee call, a bad coaching blunder — we could slide to five. I just don’t see how we could fall lower than that. We have the talent, we have the kids.”
Manhattan will send just two wrestlers back to state, as last year’s team was full of seniors. Jase Stone and Davis Matthews will lead the way for the Indians. Matthews took fourth at state last year, while Stone was the state runner-up.
Matthews said he’s been telling his teammates not to get too nervous.
“It’s still just one match at a time,” Matthews said. “Our league is pretty tough, so they’ll see some pretty good guys, but we’re well prepared.You don’t want to get too nervous or think about it too much. You’ve got to prepare yourself a little bit more, but you have to think of it as just another tournament.”
For Stone, expectations for the weekend are high.
“My expectations are to win state, I guess,” Stone said. “I’m a senior, that’s the way I want to go out, with me winning state and the team winning state.”
Both Stone and Matthews finished second at the Junction City regional. Stone lost against undefeated Sean DeShazer of Wichita Heights in the finals, the same wrestler who beat him last year in the 106 finals, while Matthews fell to Junction City’s Andrew Milsap.
Stone said he hopes to earn a rematch.
“I can definitely come back, because I know how he wrestles now,” Stone said. “I know what I need to do to avoid what he’s trying to do. I can either counter it or work my own move into it.”
Matthews said the extra time in Wichita because of the snow can help the team if everybody focuses on wrestling.
“We’re not going to be as focused because we’re not on a school schedule with things planned out,” he said. “But we’ll also have time to relax and focus more on wrestling, not having to worry about school.”