JUNCTION CITY — Last year at this time, the Manhattan High wrestlers was hoisting the Centennial League trophy over their heads in celebration.
This season, the Indians will have to settle for No. 2.
With three open weight classes and some inexperienced wrestlers in the lineup, Manhattan wasn’t able to defend its team championship, despite scoring 151 points. Junction City won the league meet with a score of 199.5.
“Six in the finals, two champions,” Manhattan coach Robert Gonzales said. “We earned eight medals — that’s a good day. Those are the eight that have been scoring all year for us.”
Manhattan had a pair of champions finish the day undefeated and take the top spot on the podium, Jase Stone and Dallas Vesta. The Indians had four wrestlers come up short in the finals, with Kian Clemens, Davis Matthews, Michael Leeper and Austin Chauncey all taking second place. Josh Mullin and Michael Forshee both took fourth to round out the medalists.
Being shorthanded, the Indians couldn’t quite get over the hump in the team scores, falling behind Junction City once the championship round got under way.
“Junction wrestles great at home,” Gonzales said. “They’re a good team — they’re deserving of their No. 2 state ranking.”
Stone managed an 11-4 win over Khamin Crow of Seaman to finish his day at 2-0 after receiving a first-round bye. Vesta, who earned his 100th career win on Saturday, defeated Topeka High’s Marcus Reece with a pin in 2:22 to go 3-0.
“He’s been in our room, since he was 8 years old,” Gonzales said of Vesta. “It’s a great, warm feeling. I’m so happy for him to get 100 career wins.”
Hurting Manhattan’s ability to make up ground against the Blue Jays were several head-to-head matchups that didn’t go the Indians’ way. Manhattan finished the day 0-3 in the finals against Junction City.
Davis struggled in his finals match against Andrew Milsap, falling behind early and losing 6-1.
Clemens lost a tough match to Kevin Perez of Junction City, settling for second place with a 3-2 decision.
Leeper met up with Blue Jay wrestler Jeryl Denton in the championship, but fell behind and ended up losing 10-4.
Chauncey, wrestling in the finals against Emporia’s Noel Tores, trailed for most of the match, needing a takedown in the final round to try and get back in it. He would lose 8-3.
In the consolation finals, Michael Forshee took fourth with a 5-3 decision, while Josh Mullin took fourth in a rematch with Daemeion Gay, who pinned him earlier in the day. Gay managed to beat Mullin, who is still wearing a hockey-style mask, 5-2.
Jordan Price, who wrestled at 195, was suffering with a shoulder injury and ended his day early after going 1-1.
Manhattan was open at 182, 220 and heavyweight. Gonzales said Chance Drake, who has wrestled at 182 most of the year, has chosen to focus on football after signing his letter of intent to play football.
“His rationale is that he needs to concentrate on football, so I said ‘OK,’” Gonzales said.
“We don’t have a sophomore that’s ready to go. It’s OK, we’ll be open at 182. I wish Chance all the best in football, but we’ve got to go on.”
CJ Mooreman-Meador had to sit out because of a short-term injury, but should be ready to go next week at regionals. Freshman heavyweight Florian Theisen is done for the year with an injury.
“We’ve got eight, and I’d take those eight any weekend, especially as the stakes get higher,” he said. “I think we’ll be OK. I don’t like to lose, and we’re second today, but I don’t feel bad being league runner-up to the No. 2 team in the state.”