Manhattan wins Salina Invitational

By Grant Guggisberg

Winning big wrestling tournaments always feels good, but for Manhattan High, this one feels even more special.

Throughout the day, the Indians went back and forth in the standings with Junction City, but in the finals round, it was Manhattan that did enough to come out on top.

The Indians won the tournament with 142.5 points, just ahead of Junction City which finished second with 134. Colby took third with 120 points and Norman (Okla.) took fourth with 72.

“Seven in the finals, and we crowned four champions,” Manhattan coach Robert Gonzalez said. “To beat our arch rivals, Junction City, which we’ll see them at a late tournament next month, and the weekends after that, is great. It’s a fierce battle. At one point, they were ahead, and I wasn’t sure we could catch them, so it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Helping push the team toward the championship were Manhattan’s four first-place finishers throughout the day. Senior Jase Stone earned his 100th career win, taking first at 113, while Davis Matthews at 145 took first after his opponent had to injury default, and Austin Chauncey took first at 160. Kian Clemens took first place at 120 with a 9-5 win in the final match over Junction City’s Kevin Perez, currently the top-ranked wrestler in 6A at that weight.

“We won key matchups,” he said. “(Kian) Clemens won at 120 and beat their state champion Kevin Perez. That was an exciting and unbelievable match.”

Dallas Vesta finished in second place, falling to Cooper Self of Topeka High in the finals to finish 4-1 on the day. At 152, Michael Forshee also took second with a 4-1 record.

Michael Leeper took third place at 152, and sophomore Darrion Taylor took fourth. At 220, CJ Mooreman-Meador finished the day in fourth place.

The Indians could have had more points, had Josh Mullin not been hurt in his opening match.

“He got hit in the head in his first match,” Gonzalez said. “He had to go to the ER, got six stitches over his left eye brow. He took second at this tournament last year. It was no fun, because he gets points for us and is 14-3 overall. He’s a tough kid.

“We had 10 medalists. We can’t help but feel if we would have had Mullin, he’d have been there. He’s a talent for us.”

Gonzalez said he was particularly pleased with the way his team was able to get key pins throughout the day, which put them over the top in the team standings by the end.

“We had 14 pinfalls, when you add them up, that’s two bonus points per pinfall, so when you look at it, that’s a big difference,” Gonzalez said. “Those are a tribute to our kids. They’re working hard for pinfalls. We saw that on Thursday night too.”

With this tournament win in the books, Manhattan has a week to prepare for a 32-team, two-day tournament in Newton, starting on Friday. But for now, the Indians can enjoy beating their rivals and bringing home top honors.

“We’ve got eight kids that were here last year, but weren’t on varsity,” Gonzalez said. “So we’re happy with this win. We wrestled really well.”

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