For Palm Desert High School wrestler Anthony Mantanona, this tournament ended the right way, and he was driven there by one that didn’t.
Mantanona, won a prestigious national tournament in Pennsylvania on Friday, capping it with an impressive 16-10 in the title match at 160 pounds at the FloNationals.
He said he wasn’t going to go to the tournament, but the bad taste left in his mouth from finishing second at the state meet in California pushed him to give it a try after all.
“If I had won at States I probably wouldn’t have gone to this one, but I wanted to get back out there,” Mantanona said by phone from Pennsylvania. “I came into this one hungry, and it worked out.”
The tournament is not an invitational, exactly. Mantanona said anyone can go to it, but “you know if you should be there or if you’re going to embarrass yourself.”
It was called the FloNationals and was put on by FloWrestling, one of the top names in high school wrestling. Think of it like the open division of the MaxPreps basketball tournament where the best of the best square off. And Mantanona was the best of the best-of-the-best.
He was the top seed at 160, and he had four first-period pins on his way to the title match. In that championship bout, against second-seeded Trent Hidlay of Pennsylvania, again Mantanona almost had an early pin. His opponent wriggled out of it, but the damage was done as Mantanona opened a large lead in points and claimed an impressive 16-10 win.
Quick starts and fast pins are part of his style.
“A lot of people like to wait around and feel each other out, hope the other guy makes mistakes,” Mantanona said. “I go after it right away. That’s just always been the way I do it, and it’s worked pretty well so far.”
The other benefit of attending this event is getting his name and skill in front of college coaches, some of who did talk to Mantanona after his win.
“That’s always important, all the things you do during your high school career are leading up to getting a college scholarship. That’s the main goal,” he said.
No rest for Mantanona who said he’s going to be home a for two days and then head out to Iowa to compete in an event where he is a returning champion.