Ravell Call, Deseret News
OREM Early in the preseason, Delta wrestler Jose Garcia was nowhere to be found.
The senior was 23 pounds over his state runner-up wrestling weight of 113 pounds from the previous year, and mentally he’d already checked out.
“My mind was like, ‘You can’t do this. You’re done. Be over with it,’” said Garcia.
Garcia’s coaches and teammates wouldn’t let him walk away that easily though, and he’s thrilled they didn't. His dedication to get back into wrestling shape paid off in a big way Saturday night as he not only won the coveted individual state title that eluded him last year, but he was instrumental in leading Delta to its fifth-straight 3A state championship.
“Honestly, I never would’ve come back if it wasn’t for my team and my coaches. They supported me and had my back the whole time,” said Garcia.
Garcia finished as Delta’s only individual champion, and the Rabbits’ depth was simply too much for the rest of 3A to overcome as they finished with four runner-ups and 12 state placers to edge Payson, 217.5 points to 210.5.
“I knew all season we didn’t have any real superstars, but we had a bunch of hard-nosed, hard-working kids top to bottom all the way through our lineup,” said Delta coach Jason Thomas. “Losing the JV scoring, everybody thought maybe that’s going to hurt Delta and their depth, but we just showed that our 14, we’ll match them up with anyone’s 14.”
Wasatch finished third with 162 points, with Uintah (141.5) and Union (120) rounding out the top five at the UCCU Center.
Even though it finished second in the team standings, Payson was dominant on championship night with Josh Jensen (106), Riley Loveless (120), Jed Mellen (138), Kaelen Loveless (160) and Devan Judd (195) all winning individual titles.
Mellen’s triumph at 138 pounds was his third individual title, one of several noteworthy multi-year champs who emerged from 3A.
Hurricane’s Zach Prince beat Wasatch’s Spencer Heywood 7-4 in the 152-pound championship match to claim his fourth individual state title — the 26th wrestler in state history to accomplish the feat.
“Feels like a dream. It’s unrealistic. It’s crazy,” said Prince, who came into the state meet with a chip on his shoulder after losing to Heywood at the regional meet a week earlier.
Prince said the key to avenging last week’s loss was staying out of Heywood’s front three-quarters, and executing the tilt move he’d been working on all week, which earned him two crucial near-fall points in the first period.
“I knew I was going to hit it on him,” said Prince, who opened his LDS mission call to Peru afterward in front of family and friends.
Meanwhile, Cedar’s Dusty Hone is on pace to join the illustrious four-timer club as the junior defeated Delta’s Victor Almanza in the 126-pound final for his third state title.
Almanza was one of four runner-ups for state champion Delta, along with Bracken Lovell (120), Jared Ewart (138) and Alex Martin (195), and coach Thomas said the quartet was very instrumental in capturing the team title.
“We preach all year: team, team, team — that’s what’s going to win it for us, without any real superstars,” said Thomas.
Spanish Fork junior Branson Ashworth claimed his second-straight title with a pin against Uintah’s Beau Blackham in the 132-pound final.
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