Last season, the Manhattan High wrestling team left the Centennial League meet disappointed by a close loss to Shawnee Heights that left the Indians wanting more.
The No. 4 team in Class 6A left little room for disappointment on Saturday, winning the league title at Highland Park in Topeka, even without two of its wrestlers.
Manhattan scored 190.5 points for first place, beating out rival Junction City’s second-place score of 156. Emporia finished in third at 133. It’s the teams first league title since 2008.
The Indians wrestled the tournament without No. 1-ranked 106-pounder Jase Stone and 113-pounder Kian Clemens due to health reasons, but even without those two, the team placed 11 of its 12 that did compete.
MHS coach Robert Gonzales said much like last year’s tournament, this one didn’t seem to get off to a good start.
“Last year, we lost by a point-and-a half and we didn’t have Brian Wood, and that was extremely difficult because we were young,” he said. “This year, it didn’t start out well because a couple of our wrestlers forget singlets and shoes — and Jase Stone has a skin lesion and then Kian Clemens had a scratch and neither had proper documentation to wrestle — the refs needed a doctor’s note.”
Gonzales said he attempted to get both wrestlers cleared, but wasn’t able to. He said he made the decision to move on without holding up the tournament.
Four different grapplers grabbed first-place medals in the tournament, as Davis Matthews was first at 145, Wood took the title at 170, Ty Suggs won the 195-pound weight class and Deion Parker was first at 195.
Gonzales said they had a couple other wrestlers that almost to took home league titles as well.
“We had four champions and they responded well, and the upper weights responded well,” he said. “Those four that won wrestled well and we had some guys take second that were close. Trey Campbell had the guy in a headlock and had a chance.”
The Indians also had four wrestlers finish in second place, as Dallas Vesta took second at 120, Drew Unruh was at 126, Tre Davis at 132 and Campbell at 182.
Taylor Hilgers was third in the 138-pound weight class, while Austin Chauncey was fourth at 160 and CJ Moorman-Meador was fourth at 285.
Gonzales said after a long 12 hours that started with a few glitches, but ended with a title, he couldn’t have been any happier or prouder of his team.
“We have the league trophy that we won in 2006 and 2008 and winning it a third time, I feel extremely pleased,” he said. “We were so close last year and to win this year, I’m totally ecstatic.”
The Indians also received an additional award, as Gonzales was voted Centennial Coach of the Year.
“When I think about my seven years here, and being so close last year, and having three championships, I feel blessed,” he said. “Being coach of the year, I felt honored that my peers voted for me.
“When you coach as long as I have, you stop and pause, and you are thankful for everyone around you, and all the work you get from your assistant coaches.”
Manhattan will take back to the road for the Class 6A regional meet next Saturday in Derby. That meet will determine state qualifiers.
The regional tournament will include non-league schools Derby, Wichita East, Wichita Heights and Wichita Southeast, along with Centennial league foes Junction City, Topeka High and Washburn Rural.
Wichita Heights is currently ranked No. 5 in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association 6A poll. Derby is ranked No. 6 and Junction City settles into the final spot at No. 10.