The Manhattan High wrestling team opened its season Saturday with an all-day tournament against some of the top wrestling teams in Kansas and several elite teams from neighboring states.
The Indians finished in eighth place overall and in third among the Kansas teams competing, scoring 104.5 points and finishing right behind rival Junction City, which is ranked second in the Class 6A team rankings and took seventh place on Saturday with 109 points.
“When I’m looking overall, we took 12 kids and 11 of the 12 are in the top half of their bracket, winning 3 to 2 matches,” Manhattan head coach Robert Gonzales said. “We’ve got more wins than losses, so I feel pretty good.”
Individually, the Indians brought home five medals, including a second-place finish for Austin Chauncey at 160 and a third-place medal for freshman Mason Wallace.
Chauncey swept through pool play easily before winning a 4-2 decision over Omaha Skutt’s Landon Gotschall to put him in the final.
The senior lost a heartbreaker in the first-place match, falling to St. James Academy’s Ben Van Lerberg in sudden victory, which came after several rounds of overtime in an even match.
“It’s a terrible way to lose, but I guess we learned,” Gonzales said. “I know Chauncey feels bad, but we’ll be OK. The main thing is we got matches.”
Wallace was the other top finisher for the Indians, finishing in third at 120 while only losing to the eventual champion in Southeast Polk’s Nolan Hellickson, who moved to 56-1 in his career. Wallace bounced back nicely to take third with a pin of Gardner-Edgerton’s Jacob Bonham in 2:25.
“His only loss was to the eventual champion, and I think if we’d have been in a different pool, we might have been in the finals,” Gonzales said. “Although he beat Mason 10-2, we felt he wrestled real well in the semifinals and he won his pool.”
Kian Clemens at 132, Michael Leeper at 152 and Anthony Renteria at 195 were the other three medalists on the day.
Clemens went 2-1 in pool play, which meant fifth place was the best he could finish. In the consolation bracket, he pinned his first opponent in 5:43 before winning by major decision against Dodge City’s Jaden McRoberts, 9-1, to take fifth.
Leeper also went 2-1 in pool play before winning a pair of matches in the consolation bracket, first with a quick pin of Dodge City’s Dylan Servis (0:55) before winning a close 4-3 match over Brady Buchheit of Southeast Polk to take fifth.
Renteria, who made his varsity debut Saturday, took sixth after receiving a first-round bye and finishing with a 1-1 record in pool play. In the consolation semifinals, he won 5-2 over Shawnee Mission East’s Jack Carter before Baldwin’s Mario Garcia pinned him in 2:18 to net him the sixth-place medal.
Manhattan had several wrestlers with a solid day that narrowly missed the medal stand, including Joe Braun at 106 (9th), Darrion Taylor at 113 (7th), Devin Norris at 126 (7th), Erich Sanchez at 145 (9th) and Josh Mullin at 170 (8th).
“Most of the other guys finished between seventh and ninth,” Gonzales said. “You don’t get medals for those, but I was pleased with their performance.”
Manhattan’s Kendrick Rivera at 138 (10th) and Florian Theisen at 285 (11th) also won matches, with Rivera finishing 2-3 and Theisen going 1-3.
Looking forward, the Indians wrestle against Emporia in a league match on Friday at 6 p.m. before hosting five teams for a round-robin dual tournament on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Gonzales said the teams just rotate around, with an hour and a half between each dual. Saturday’s tournament field includes Goddard, Smith Center, Abilene, Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Heights, where he coached for many years before coming to Manhattan.
“It keeps it going fast, and it’s really a good little tournament,” he said. “It’s people we don’t get to see that often, so it’s good. It’s kind of fun to see my old school and see the little brothers of kids I coached years ago.”