High school wrestling: Miners claim surprise lead to open state meet
OREM — The high school state wrestling tournaments got underway with a surprising twist — Bingham leads in the 5A classification.
Bingham's two heavyweights in Seni Fauonuku and Kensi Tausinga powered the Miners to their surprising lead as each picked up two pins in their respective matches for 22 huge team points.
While Viewmont has won the crown the last two seasons and five of the last six years, if it wants to capture a championship this year, it needs to overtake both Bingham (74. 5 points) and Pleasant Grove (70.5) as it sits in third with 67 points.
"Man, 5A is tough," said Viewmont coach Brandon Ripplinger. "We knew coming in that it was going to be this way. There are just a lot of tough wrestlers from a lot of schools. We figured that it would be a dog fight, and that is exactly how it is turning out."
With such close team battles, matches against the other top teams have a little extra importance.
"My coaches didn't say anything about it, but all my teammates did," said 119-pounder Doug Hutchinson of Viewmont after beating a Pleasant Grove Viking. "I was exhausted, but I knew I had it in me to go out and get a takedown."
While some wrestlers have a team title for extra motivation, others are searching for individual glory.
"It can be a little hard knowing that your teammates won't have the same kind of title, but at the same time, you can't lose focus of what you are trying to accomplish," said Fremont's Jed Craner, who is a defending state champion and moved to 50-0 on the season with his quarterfinal pin.
The 4A race is staying more true to form and is as tight as everyone expected with Box Elder leading (105.5 points), defending champion Payson sticking closely behind (102) and Mountain Crest (96) lying within striking distance.
"We had a couple of heartbreakers and a couple of surprises, so it is about what you would expect," said Payson coach Chris Loveless.
The tight race places extra emphasis on getting bonus points through falls, technical falls and major decisions.
"Coach doesn't necessarily tell us we need to get the pin, but he tells us to go out there and work hard for every single point we can get. We know that as long as we all go out and wrestle as hard as we can, then we will be right there on Friday," said Box Elder's Cody Bunderson, a defending state champion who pinned his opponent in the quarterfinals. "It is kind of my specialty to go for the pin."
While Box Elder, Payson and Mountain Crest have strong wrestling traditions, the state tournament is new territory for other grapplers and teams.
"I want to set a good example for my team, and hopefully that can get things started for us to start to grow a tradition," said 103-pound freshman Britain Carter of Maple Mountain, the favorite to take the 4A title and whose team sits in surprising fifth position with 61 points. "It is a goal of mine to become a four-time gold medalist, and the only way to do that is for me to get the first one this year. I am just going to work hard and go out and wrestle my best in each match, and I think I can do it."
The action continues today at the McKay Events Center on the campus of UVU with matches getting under way at 4 p.m. and the semifinals scheduled to begin at 5:30.