Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
OREM — Fire up the popcorn machines. Order the pizza pies. Grab some Milk Duds. (Maybe throw a few in the popcorn for a "chocobuttery" combination). And crack open an ice cold soda.
The mecca of Utah high school wrestling has arrived.
Throughout all five classifications — spanning 14 weight divisions ranging from 106-pounders to 285-pound heavyweights — 1,029 high school grapplers are vying to sketch their names into state championship immortality.
The 5A and 4A classifications commence Wednesday at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley with single-elimination matches beginning at noon on 10 separate mats.
On Thursday, quarterfinal action gets underway at noon before the championship finals start at 6:10 that night for the larger classifications.
The 3A, 2A and 1A meets begin Friday at 1 p.m. and continue Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
If you’re itching with anticipation and can hardly wait for the ultimate prep wrestling event of the year, here’s a guide of who to watch and what teams are expected to hang championship banners when all is said and done.
The Pleasant Grove Vikings are the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Utah wrestling world. The Vikings recently won their 28th wrestling title and are favored to win their third straight again this year behind sophomore Kyson Levin.
Levin, who won in 2012 as a freshman with his brother Korbin (a three-time individual medalist), said capturing four straight is the ultimate goal.
"It's always a competition in the house (on) who's better," said Kyson after the state tournament last year in reference to his brother. "My goal was to be a four-timer and he's only a three-timer. Hopefully I can get the next three years."
Viewmont, which finished second last season, along with Alta (3rd), Fremont (4th) and Layton (5th), are considered the programs with the best shot at knocking off the Vikings. All four finished in the top five in 2012.
The classification, after an 80 percent majority vote among coaches, revamped its qualifying procedures and tailored them toward the format 3A and 2A uses. It ensures the top 16 wrestlers in each weight division qualify by using two divisional meets instead of region meets, which allowed some wrestlers to sneak in through the cracks of weak regions. It also limits the occasions in which the top two wrestlers meet before the semifinals.
There are four returning state champions: PG’s Levin (106 pounds), Alta’s Matt Findlay (113 pounds), Syracuse’s Zane Rich (132 pounds) and Layton’s Ken Astle (138 pounds).
Rich was a sudden-death winner in 2012.
In horse racing — even in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — there are sometimes clear-cut, unquestionable favorites. There may be other talented horses in the field, but they simply don’t have a shot in the wind to take down the faster, stronger more athletic thoroughbreds.
For instance, in 1973, Secretariat — the eventual winner of all three stages of the Triple Crown — and Sham were the only horses that legitimately contended for the victory wreath.
That scene is very homogeneous to the scene in 4A this year. It’s Maple Mountain, Box Elder and 24 others.
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