The Manhattan wrestling team has flown under the radar throughout the season. Locally, it was difficult to decipher if the Indians were contenders or pretenders in the wide-open 6A race.
Their performance at the 6A regional on Saturday took away any suspense – the Indians are legitimate challengers, and may even be the favorite at the state tourney next weekend at Hartman Arena.
“We look at ourselves as underdogs, so we wrestle harder,” said Manhattan’s Trey Campbell. “It seems like we always pull through. I feel like we don’t get enough respect, but that’s a good thing because it makes us better on the mat.”
Manhattan cruised to the regional team trophy with 231-1/2 points, besting second-place Derby’s 177-1/2.
Campbell was one of five champions for the Indians. He pinned Topeka’s Austin Tillman in the 182-pound final.
Jase Stone (106 pounds), Drew Unruh (126), Tre Davis (132) and Deion Parker (220) also won titles for the Indians.
“I feel really confident. If we wrestle like we did today, we have a pretty good chance of winning it,” Campbell said. “We’ve made it this far, so we just want to finish off.”
Manhattan will send all 14 wrestlers to the state tournament. Derby held its own, however, as the Panthers will take 12 to the title showdown.
Derby also had four individual champions at regionals, and had seven in the finals. Jeffrey Morrow (113 pounds), Brady Heincker (138), Ben Becker (145) and Chandler Ayer (152) took the top spots.
“We knew coming in after seeing Manhattan in Newton that they have no weak links – none whatsoever,” said Bill Ross, Derby head coach. “We knew they had a lot of depth. We knew they’d be hard to beat here at the regional.”
Ross said his team still likes its chances.
“We’ve taken 14 to state before and not won it, so we’ll try to take 12 this year and see if we can’t get something done,” Ross said. “The guys that you take have to win matches. It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to take 14 guys if those guys don’t win any matches.”
Wichita Heights Head Coach Mike Church is not counting his Falcons out of the race yet, either. All teams must still run through Heights, the defending state champions.
The Falcons will send 10 wrestlers to state, including regional champions Matt Reed and Ulysses DeShazer.
“I think there are six teams that have an opportunity to win the state title,” Church said. “Those six teams, I think you can throw all those guys in a hat, throw it up in the air and any of those six teams can win it on any weekend. I think Manhattan put themselves in a very good position today.“Right now I think they’re the favorite, but the favorite doesn’t always win the state championship,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun tournament. It’s going to be one of the more interesting ones in a while.”