Prep wrestling: Defending state champs look tough again this season
Top teams from all 5 classifications aim for state titles again
The high school wrestling season kicked off this past weekend with multiple meets across the state, highlighted as always by the Millard Iron Man and the Layton Invitational.
If those early meets are any indication, defending state champs Pleasant Grove, Maple Mountain, Delta, Millard and Altamont will all be very tough to beat this season.
Here's a class-by-class look at the upcoming wrestling season:
Defending state champion Pleasant Grove returns eight state placers, including individual champion Kyson Levin, and is definitely favored to win its third straight state title.
The big story in 5A, however, is the switch to divisional state tournament qualifying meets like in 3A and 2A.
Roughly 80 percent of the coaches were in favor of the switch, which serves two main purposes. First, it should help ensure that the top 16 individuals in each weight category qualify for state instead a handful of wrestlers from a weaker region diluting the field. Secondly, it increases the odds that the top two wrestlers in each weight don't meet in the semifinals.
Regardless of the format, Pleasant Grove is still the favorite.
"It's too early to tell. We haven't wrestled anyone in 5A yet; we'll find out how we are in a couple weeks," said Pleasant Grove coach Brock Moore.
Pleasant Grove's first tournament with fellow 5A schools won't be until the Rocky Mountain Rumble in January, but Viewmont coach Brandon Ripplinger said that with eight state placers, the Vikings are definitely the favorite.
"Anything can happen throughout the season, you always have that element to it. But year in and year out, the numbers don't lie too often. P.G. would be upset if they get beat with what they have back this year," said Ripplinger.
The Viewmont coach expects that his own team along with Layton, Alta and Fremont — and perhaps even Bingham — could make some noise near the top of 5A this year.
Along with Levin at 106 pounds, other returning state champs in 5A are Alta's Matt Findlay (113), Syracuse's Zane Rich (132) and Layton's Ken Astle (138).
Maple Mountain edged Box Elder by 16 points for last year's 4A state title.
If the opening weekend of the wrestling season is any indicator, expect another two-team race. Maple Mountain swept the Millard Iron Man with a perfect 10-0 record, while Box Elder dominated the Layton Invitational.
"I think the championship this year really will come down to us and Box Elder, but there are always teams that you cannot look past," said Maple Mountain assistant coach Jeff Roylance. "The overall level of wrestling has risen so much over the past few years that each weight class has several excellent wrestlers that can beat anyone on any given day."
Both Maple Mountain and Box Elder return three individual state champions and multiple other state placers.
Maple Mountain's returning champs are Britain Carter (113), Grant LaMont (138) and Jesse Carlisle (145). Box Elder's individual champs are Rasten Yeates (152), Nick Sorenson (160) and Breckin Gunter (195).
The only other individual champ from a different 4A school is Herriman's Chandler Strand (106).
Despite what figures to be a two-team race in 4A, multiple northern schools hope to gain ground on the top two. Mountain Crest and Logan are expected to be strong this year in Region 5, as will Clearfield in Region 6 after the Falcons won their first region title since 1993 last season.