The Manhattan High wrestling team opened with one of the toughest tournaments it will participate in all season at the 33rd annual invitational wrestling tournament at Gardner-Edgerton High School on Saturday.
While the competition was stiffened with several nationally-ranked out-of-state schools in attendance, the Indians took sixth place and had some solid performances throughout the day.
“We feel pretty good,” head coach Robert Gonzalez said. “We didn’t get our goal — a trophy — but we were in the top six and there were 18 schools. There were a lot of out-of-state teams, a lot of nationally-ranked teams.”
Manhattan took sixth place with 127 team points, while Southeast Polk out of Iowa took first with 252 points. Broken Arrow out of Tulsa, Okla., finished in second place with 234. The top Kansas high school was St. James Academy out of Lenexa in fifth place with 149.5 team points. Fellow Centennial League member Topeka Seaman finished in seventh, one point behind the Indians with 126.
“In all my years, this was the toughest one-day tournament I’ve ever attended,” Gonzales said. “And I’ve been in a lot of good venues in Iowa and Nebraska, as well as Kansas.”
MHS got strong performances from Jase Stone at 113 and Michael Leeper at 152.
Stone took a 4-0 record into the tournament final, but lost a 4-0 decision to Omaha Skutt Cathlic’s JT Sloboth to finish second. Leeper went 3-0 in his pool before falling to Broken Arrow’s Paden Bailey, but rebounded in the third-place match to beat St. James Academy’s Matt Pratt in a tiebreaker.
“Michael won an exciting match in overtime with a tiebreaker,” Gonzales said. “He’s a junior and had a great tournament. His only loss was to the state champion from Broken Arrow who is a Division-I recruit. He really wrestled at a high level.”
MHS had a pair of fourth-place finishers in Michael Forshee (170) and Davis Matthews (145). Forshee had three pins on the day, with Matthews winning by fall in two of his matches. As a team, Manhattan had 18 pins on the day.
“It was everything we wanted it to be and thought it might be,” Gonzales said of the tough tournament. “I found out a lot about my team. We have seven guys who can score at a high level. You need nine or 10 to get a trophy at a state tournament — well we had three guys who lost at the wrong times. Had they been on a different side of the bracket, I’m not saying they would have won, but I like my chances with those 10 athletes.”
At 160, Austin Chauncey took fifth with a 4-1 day, while Dallas Vesta (126) also finished fifth at 4-1. Newcomer Kian Clemens (120) finished sixth after a 3-2 day to round out the placers for Manhattan.
Josh Mullin (138) and CJ Mooreman-Meador (220) each finished just outside the placers with a non-medal seventh with 3-2 records.
With the season opener in the books, Gonzales now has to prepare his team for three meets this week, starting with an important dual at Junction City on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“They won the Wamego tournament this weekend, and they return a lot of people,” he said. “It’s always been a tremendous battle between the two teams because of the rivalry. JC will be a great opponent.”
The team travels to Emporia on Friday before a tournament in Abilene on Saturday. After that, the team will get the bulk of the following week to prep for another tough tournament in Grand Island, Neb.
“I’m hopeful,” he said, “we can get some of those things figured out and put together before we go to a nationally-ranked tournament the following week up in Grand Island.”