Manhattan takes fifth in boys and girls regionals, takes nine to state

Kris Long, Opinions Editor

Manhattan High wrestling came out of both regional tournaments this week and last with a fifth place finish. Eight boys joined #123 sophomore Dache Island-Jones in making the cut, with three of the boys taking home the Regional championship. 

This was the first year for girls regionals to be a separate entity, as previously girls had to out-wrestle boys to take their place at also mixed state. Despite the program being in its infancy, host school Emporia reportedly ran the meet well and with as many resources as the boys. 

“I think having the girls division is great for them,” girls and assistant coach Daniel Grater said. “You look at our national level, you know, senior level competition you start talking college and the world level, the women have their own division. So it’s something that I feel, especially at a hand to hand combat sport, it’s just way more equal and more fair for the girls to compete against their own strengths.”

Regionals was Island-Jones’ biggest challenge this season. Having just slipped out of the state rankings for her weight class, she hoped to make it back in. Though she didn’t meet her goal, Island-Jones placed fifth and made it to the state tournament. 

“I thought it was going to be difficult,” Island-Jones said. “I just did my best, and the end result, I was okay with it.” 

The boys brought a full starting line up to regionals for the first time in months, with all 14 weight classes filled. Regionals is also the boy’s most difficult tournament so far in their season, despite going to multiple nationally ranked tournaments.

“Regionals is one of the toughest tournaments that we compete in,” junior Damian Ilalio said. “Especially because our region is really strong. Four out of the top five schools in the state are in our region. We have really good competition there.” 

In the western region, MHS has to compete against state-ranked Washburn Rural, Garden City, Dodge City and Derby. The only top five team they don’t have to face until state is Gardner-Edgerton High, a nationally ranked program.

Despite this, the team took eight boys to state. In order to make it to the state tournament they had to make at least eighth in the regional tournament. Taking seventh were freshman Jaxon Vikander and sophomore Blaisen Bammes; in fifth sophomores Janzten Borge and Tucker Brunner; fourth was senior Daron Island-Jones and winning their weight classes were sophomore Easton Taylor, junior Damian Ilalio and senior Tate Sauder. 

Taylor won his final through disqualification, due to his Garden City opponent biting him in the first period. 

Sauder got his 100th career pin in the second period of the regional final against Ryan Heiman from Garden City. A four year varsity starter, Sauder earned his 100th win earlier this year at the varsity home meet. He will be the second MHS wrestler to make 100 pins after alumni Jaylan Harper.

“I mean, 100 wins, maybe it’s a special occasion in one’s life. But 100 career pins now that’s pretty impressive,” head coach Robert Gonzales said. “To get 100 wins that’s achievable. Most young people can get there if they’re winning all four years, if you’re varsity all four years. But to get 100 pins, that’s very impressive.”

Ilalio got the chance to beat one of his rivals, David Huckstep from Washburn Rural, in his final round. Huckstep beat Ilalio at regionals last year and placed higher than him at state. Though Ilalio defeated him at league, according to Ilalio it felt good to get him again. 

“I’ve always had a thing against him,” Ilalio said. “It’s a little bit more personal… whenever I go against him. He’s some good competition, and I like going against him. I like beating him…. It felt really good especially because last year I got eighth at regionals, and I always dreamed about coming back, and getting number one…  I was happy that I was able to beat him because it was at Washburn, so I hope it stung a little bit more.”

The nine MHS state wrestlers will travel to the Pack City-Heartman arena in Wichita to compete next Friday for the two-day State tournament. They expect a challenge as only eight boys will be generating points for the team rather than the typical around ten. In order to medal, all eight boys will have to win both of their matches on Friday night. 

“I’m confident that the three regional champions will be okay up through Friday night,” Gonzales said. “But the other five guys will have a tough cross.”