After back-to-back team titles at the Blue Valley Northwest Husky Wrestling Invitational, the Manhattan High wrestling team traveled to Overland Park looking for a three-peat.
Instead, the Indians battled some adversity, seeing a couple of injuries slow them down while taking second in the team standings behind the host Huskies.
Manhattan head coach Robert Gonzales said the team was disappointed in coming up short, but the coach saw it as a chance for his young athletes to find some perspective and learn from it.
‘It is what it is, it’s OK,’ Gonzales said. ‘Sometimes you can have a little success and run into some adversity with injuries, or matches you should have won — I told the kids that it was a team race and everybody was working hard and supporting the team. We got scoring out of 12 kids, and that’s all we can ask for.’
Manhattan was without freshman Mason Wallace for the entire weekend, and also lost senior Josh Mullin to injury Friday night. While Mullin still took sixth and scored points, despite only wrestling at full strength twice, Wallace spent the whole weekend in street clothes. Had the team been at full strength, their score would likely have increased by a minimum of 30 points.
‘It was a good weekend,’ Gonzales said. ‘We were right there. We got second and had three champions. Every tournament we go to, (Mason’s) worth 26 team points. But we can’t rely on him, even if he’s 27-3. He felt bad he couldn’t wrestle and sat with the team, sat with me a couple times.’
The Indians got gold-medal performances from seniors Kian Clemens at 132, Michael Leeper at 152 and Austin Chauncey at 160, all of whom went 4-0 on the weekend. Gonzales said much of his team needs a break to heal battered bodies over the next couple weeks. The team takes next week off before hosting the Centennial League meet on Feb. 8.
‘Kian at 132 and his kid, they hit forehead to forehead, nose to nose, so he probably has some bruising on his nose,’ Gonzales said. ‘Austin hit his head in a match, and Leeper’s knees are a little sore — those kids were warriors, they battled. It’s one of those things, the timing is perfect.’
In addition to three champions, Manhattan had three guys take third place in Kendrick Rivera at 138, Erick Sanchez at 145 and Eldon Davis-Picou at 285.
‘We had three third-place finishes out of some good kids,’ Gonzales said. ‘Sanchez was first in Salina, fifth in Newton and then third here. Then Rivera, who had a bad weekend in Newton, he came in and got third. He couldn’t stop smiling when he got his medal tonight. He’s worked real hard.
‘Probably the surprise and who picked up the scoring with Mason out was Eldon Picou. They seeded him third and he ended up getting third, and he wrestled at a high level. He picked up 18 points for us he didn’t get in Newton. He’s getting better.’
Freshman Devin Norris took fifth at 126 on the weekend, with Darrion Taylor at 113 taking sixth place and Mullin at 170 earning sixth despite three injury defaults.
‘Norris, another freshman in this talented group of young wrestlers, he lost 2-1 to Doug Newcomb, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and eventual champion,’ he said. ‘So Devin comes storming back on the back side of the bracket and takes fifth. He got us a quality 12 points.’
Gonzales said one aspect of the tournament that changed from last year was a decision to wrestle everything out to ninth place in order to get more matches. As a result, Kurtis Rich (182) and Anthony Renteria (195) both took seventh place, and Joe Braun (106) took ninth.
‘Kurtis Rich got seventh, got a pinfall and a decision,’ Gonzales said. ‘He hasn’t had much success at 182, but he’s up two classes wrestling for us. So he had his best tournament of the season and his confidence level is high. ‘Then Renteria took seventh, and he’s getting better. He runs into everybody’s big defensive lineman, that traditional guy at 195.’
With Mullin likely out for a few weeks and Wallace still battling soreness, the Indians are feeling the grind of a long season.
‘We’re making it through this grind of January, and we do have a couple nicks, but it happens when you wrestle this type of schedule,’ Gonzales said. ‘This has been a tremendous season for these young people and I couldn’t be more proud of them.’