WICHITA — Manhattan High coach Robert Gonzales wanted to make excuses.
His team, after coming into the weekend with 11 wrestlers, did not wrestle well over the weekend at the Class 6A/5A state wrestling tournament in Wichita.
Gonzales had five guys make it through the first two rounds unscathed, but saw all five of those wrestlers lose in the semifinals, eliminating Manhattan’s chances of an individual champion or a realistic shot at the team title.
“I’d love to blame the weather, or the fact our kids have spent half a week in a motel, or even just bad draws,” Gonzales said. “But the bottom line is, we got beat.”
Garden City won the title with 173.5 points, while Junction City was second at 125.5 points.
Even in an admitted disappointing performance early on Saturday, Manhattan still medaled six, three of which are juniors and will be back next year. The Indians finished sixth in the team standings, below where they wanted to be starting the weekend, but they finished strong in the final round, finishing with a 4-2 record in the finals, with one loss coming on injury default.
“It really sets the tone for next year,” Gonzales said. “We’ll meet next week and the seniors will check in gear, but our juniors will set plans, with weightlifting and offseason wrestling. We want them all to get bigger and stronger.”
Kian Clemens and Austin Chauncey, both juniors, were the top finishers for the Indians, both battling their way to the third-place finishes after tough semifinal losses.
Clemens won two matches on Friday to advance to the semis, one a pin (3:31) of Lawrence’s Tim Thongone in the opening round and a 4-2 decision over Derby’s Jeffery Morrow. Clemens lost in a 5-3 decision to Wichita Northwest’s Mike Lindlar before bouncing back against Blue Valley-Stillwell’s in a 10-6 decision. In the third-place match, Clemens took a 1-0 lead on Dodge City’s Clay Weil off an escape in the second period, but gave it right back to start the third. Weil got a takedown to take a 3-1 lead, but Clemens was able to get a reversal with 30 seconds left to force overtime. From there, Clemens needed just 14 seconds to get a takedown to win 5-3 in sudden-death OT.
“That was a great match,” Gonzales said. “To have him come back and take third is great. We’ll be counting on him next year to help lead the way.”
For Chauncey, the road to the third-place match was similar, with the senior rattling off a pair of pins to reach the semifinals, first against Hutchinson’s Jared Page (3:24) and next against Blue Valley North’s Matt McLeod (4:17). Chauncey lost in the semifinals to Wichita South’s Kalin Collins by pinfall (2:16), but won a 5-1 decision over Derby’s Chandler Ayer. In the third-place match, Chauncey beat Junction City’s Devonte Wilson 12-3 in a rematch of the regional final. After winning in overtime at regionals, Chauncey was in control all the way against Wilson this time, with the only scare coming when Chauncey shifted on to his back momentarily before regaining position.
“He’s probably our most improved wrestler,” Gonzales said. “When I think back to where he was a year ago, he has come a long way. We call his style ‘funk wrestling’, and it drives opposing coaches nuts, because so often he’ll do the opposite of what’s expected. I just kind of chuckle to see him where he’s at.”
Manhattan had four wrestlers in the fifth-place matches on the day, with Jase Stone, Davis Matthews, Josh Mullin and Jordan Price.
Stone’s day ended abruptly with an injury default in the consolation semifinals after he made a trip to the hospital Friday night for a knee injury. Stone was pinned in the championship semifinals on Saturday by Derby’s Cody McDonald (4:50) after making a mistake on a move Gonzales said he’s done “a thousand times”. He ended up taking sixth after skipping the fifth-place match because of injury.
“It was a disappointing loss for him, but he’s been a great wrestler for us and he’s had a great career,” Gonzales said. “He has won a ton of matches for us.”
Matthews went 3-3 on the weekend to take fifth place, pinning his first opponent before falling to Garden City’s Trevor Kennedy 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The senior got a pin and a major decision in the consolation rounds, but fell to Wichita Northwest’s Jordan Beckner in a 6-5 decision to get to the fifth-place match.
Matthews defeated Shawnee Mission West’s Swedi Ntakirutimana 2-0 in the final round, taking the lead in the second round on a reversal after starting the period down. Matthews was able to keep his opponent down for the final three minutes to earn the victory and leave the mat on a win.
“He’s going to be tough to replace,” Gonzales said of Matthews. “He’s won a lot of matches for us over the years. It’s good to see him come away with a win in his last one.”
At 138, Mullin won his first two matches, a pin and a 7-3 decision, to get to the semis, where he lost 10-5 to Garden City’s AJ Hurtado. Mullin lost his next match as well, with Blue Valley Northwest’s Jaquwan Stone taking a 9-3 decision to put Mullin in the fifth-place match.
In the fifth-place match, Mullin got a rematch with his second round opponent, Lawrence’s Caden Lynch. Mullin was in control from start to finish, winning 8-2 to take home fifth place.
“Josh is one of the guys we want to see get bigger and stronger for next season,” Gonzales said. “He battled through some injuries for us and I know he’s ready for baseball season this week. He’s a three-sport guy for us and I’m happy for him.”
Jordan Price started off well, winning his first two matches by pin to reach the championship semis, but lost a 6-1 decision to Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Mario Galvan to drop into the consolation semifinals, where Junction City’s James Denton waited. Denton was out for revenge after Price won 10-6 in the championship match at regionals. Denton capitalized on a mistake by Price, pinning him in 2:05 to send him to the fifth-place match.
In the fifth-place match, facing Blake Bradford, Price struggled early, giving up a takedown and a near pin as team expired in the first round to spot his opponent a 5-0 lead. Price battled back, making it 7-3, but Bradford was able to get the pin at the 3:53 mark.
“He just didn’t have enough mat time,” Gonzales said of Price’s season. “He’s a soccer player at heart, so I’ll be sure and thank the soccer coach and the soccer community for lending him to us. He really did well for us this year.”
Among those not in the final round, Manhattan had several surprises.
Dallas Vesta at 126 had a tough day, winning his first match in a 6-0 decision over Olathe East’s Husayn Sultani before dropping a 3-1 decision to Maize’s Brett Moon. In the consolation round, Vesta was leading 9-0 before making a mistake and getting pinned by Gardner-Edgerton’s Kiefer Price to end his weekend.
“He had a big lead and just made a mistake,” Gonzales said. “It’s tough to see him end a great career like that, but he’s a great kid.”
At 152, Michael Leeper lost his opening round match to Wichita Northwest’s Saul Ortiz 5-0 to send him to the consolation bracket. Leeper won his next two matches, a pin and a 4-3 decision, but fell to Wichita East’s William Burrows 6-3.
Michael Forshee at 170 won his first match against Blue Valley Northwest’s Jeremy Katz 6-3, before dropping his next two matches, the first against Garden City’s Anthony Gardner with a pin in 1:59, the second coming in an overtime loss to Blue Valley-Stilwell’s Jackson Macoubrie, 5-3.
At 106, Darrion Taylor, with his 13-27 record on the year, had a tough go of it, losing a pair of major decisions to some top wrestlers.
CJ Mooreman-Meador at 220 also came into the meet with a low seed, and was pinned in his first match by Wichita Northwest’s Jordan Bell in 2:48. In his consolation match, Mooreman-Meador lost to Blue Valley Northwest’s Carter Tierney in a 9-3 decision.
Gonzales received an award from KSHSAA for 35 years of service to the wrestling community, and will be a busy man the next two years as he takes over as president of the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.