Manhattan High’s young wrestling team came in12th with 95.5 points in 6A state wrestling to finish the season, the first time since 2009 the team didn’t make the state top 10. Despite the disappointment, the team came a long way over the season.
This year, Kansas State High School Activities Association held its first girls state wrestling tournament. Manhattan only had one wrestler qualify, sophomore Dache Island-Jones. Dache fell one match short of placing after earning eighth at regionals.
The boys took eight wrestlers to state: freshman Jaxson Vikander; sophomores Janzten Borge, Easton Taylor, Tucker Brunner and Blaisen Bammes; junior Damian Ilalio; and seniors Tate Sauder and Daron Island-Jones. Bammes placed fifth at #138, Sauder took third at #126, Ilalio was runner-up in heavyweight and Taylor won the #120 weight class. Though not everyone placed, all of the wrestlers won at least one match at state.
“Well, we brought eight athletes down, four earned medals,” head coach Robert Gonzales said. “So, I guess we’re 500 and I’m happy… I mean, you’re at the state tournament and so everybody is either equal or better than you. It’s what the state tournament is all about”
Sauder is now a three time state medalist with 104 career pins. He pinned his way to the third place match with the exception of his one loss in the semi-finals, in part due to contentious calls by the referee.
“It was a very controversial match we thought from the video they made some incorrect calls there,” Gonzales said. “But there’s no way to protest. So we have to live with that.”
Sauder went on to wrestle in the consolation semifinals, getting a win and going on to earn the third place medal.
“I really wish I was going for number 104 in the finals match but, oh well, you’ve got to come back and compete the next day,” Sauder said. “I just wanted to go out with a bang.”
Ilalio lost in the final to Ethan Kremer from Mill Valley, the favorite to win heavyweight with a record of 50-1 after pinning his way through state.
“He’s a really good wrestler. He’s ranked number one in all classes,” Ilalio said. “I was super nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous for almost anything in my life [but] that was like… all the pressures on you. There’s a really big crowd over there. I thought about it as I have nothing to lose. So ‘I’ll go out there and do what I do. I won’t worry about who’s supposed to win and who’s supposed to not win or whatever, I’ll just give it my best and see how it goes.’”
Ilalio ultimately lost by fall in the third period after going down earlier in the match.
“It’s disappointing as always, I mean, it sucks that I lost,” Ilalio said. “But, I know that I gave it my all. I know that he was a really good opponent and I think I wrestled him really well.”
Manhattan’s sole state champion, Taylor, pinned his way to the finals also. After placing third as a freshman, he was ranked second in the state until the first-ranked wrestler was disqualified while wrestling Taylor at regionals. It was his tournament to lose going into the finals Saturday afternoon. According to Taylor, being ranked first didn’t impact his wrestling.
“I do the same stuff every time,” Taylor said. “Just kind of show them what’s up.”
He wrestled third-ranked Joseph Triscornia, from Dodge City, in the final round.
“I wrestled him last year just once, but that’s all I knew [about him],” Taylor said. “I felt pretty confident, a little bit nervous… I was just thinking about what I’d do [in the match.]”
Taylor won the match by major decision 12-0, completely dominating his opponent but unable to get the pin.
“I guess I just can’t even describe how I felt [when I won],” Taylor said. “It was just awesome.”
Though individuals did well, as a team they hoped to do better. Despite the difficulty that state was expected to pose with only eight athletes competing.
“We didn’t really do as well as I’d hoped we would,” Ilalio said. “I know that our wrestlers left it all out on the mat. But I mean, we just didn’t perform as well as we wanted to… I’m going to be totally honest. We didn’t get the result we wanted or expected, but I mean… we tried our best and it’s just time to start over for next year.”