Wyatt Mansker had high hopes heading into this season after winning the regional title and qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in his prep sports career, but then his year was almost cut short.
The Olathe 170-pound wrestler was enjoying some early success before he suffered a knee injury in the Warrior Classic back in December, requiring him to sport crutches and a knee brace for about a month and a half.
But Mansker recently had a successful surgery, which allowed him to come back for the Meeker Duals on Feb. 8.
Although he was nervous in his initial match, Mansker said he found his knee held up, giving him the confidence to know he’s ready to battle at the Class 3A Regional Tournament today and Saturday at the Montrose County Event Center.
“I've been practicing all week and I just got to trust it (his knee),” Mansker said Wednesday. “It’s fixed now.”
The Olathe grappler said he’s determined to finish in the top four at this upcoming competition. The top four wrestlers in their respective weight class at regionals qualify for the state tourney.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “... I’m hoping to make it over the hill.”
Although Mankser won regionals last year, he ended up not doing as well as at the final tournament of the season, falling short of placing at the tournament. With that in mind, he said his ultimate goal is to outdo his state performance from last year.
“Just to make it and get back over there, that’s step one,” Mansker said. “You’ve got to make it before you go to state.”
For a young Olathe squad, Mansker and teammate Brent Gray (160) are the team’s two state qualifiers from last year.
Like Mansker, Gray didn’t have the best showing at the year-end tourney. The Olathe grappler said he’s used that performance to help fuel him this season.
Gray, a senior, said he’s feeling much more confident compared to a year ago. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s had the last four years of experience under his belt, which he hopes to use in securing a regional title.
“The goal is to always to come in first but (I want) fourth or better,” Gray said.
At regionals, Olathe will face off against No. 4 ranked Alamosa, fifth-ranked Pagosa Springs, Moffat County, Glenwood Springs, Bayfield, Rifle, Gunnison, Basalt, Grand Valley, Cortez, Steamboat Springs, Coal Ridge and Delta, which will host the tournament.
Mansker and Gray both acknowledge that having this upcoming competition for the second-straight year at the event center does give them a home-field advantage.
“It’s a lot better. My whole family comes and I have that crowd support and my friends from school come and watch,” Mansker said. “It gives you that motivation to do well. It’s like a home dual but on a bigger stage and there’s a lot more riding on it.”
Head coach Tee Jay Rose couldn’t be reached for comment.