WEST VALLEY CITY — With the 2014 high school wrestling state tournaments just a few short days away, the reigning state champs — Pleasant Grove, Maple Mountain, Delta, Millard and Altamont — are ready to attempt to add another trophy to their collections. The rest of the state hopes to dethrone them.
Heading into what promises to be a weekend of intrigue and entertainment, here's a class-by-class look at the upcoming wrestling state tournaments:
Defending state champion Pleasant Grove returns eight state placers from last year, including individual champs Benjamin Anderson (120 pounds, 46-7), Kyson Levin (113, 45-5), T.J. Wind (170, 39-14) and Zachary Dawe (285, 46-1).
All four wrestlers took home first place in the 5A divisional A qualifier last week and three of the four won their matches in the All-Star Dual back in January.
As a team, the Vikings completely dominated the 5A divisional A qualifier, easily capturing the title while qualifying 22 wrestlers for the state tournament. With such a dominant squad set to compete in the state tournament again this year, the Vikings are definitely the clear-cut favorite to win their fourth straight title.
Herriman finished right behind Pleasant Grove in second place in the 5A divisional A qualifier with 319 points, and should have the best chance at dethroning the Vikings for the first time in four years.
The Mustangs qualified 17 wrestlers for the state tournament, including individual champ Jaron Jensen (30-7) from the 132-pound weight class.
Other qualifiers include Drake Hale (106, 2-4), Chandler Strand (120, 39-6), Hayden Hewitt (126, 12-10), Cole Clark (132, 11-13), Tony Trujillo (138, 26-14), Trey Giles (138, 26-14), Colton French (145, 8-10), Taylor Brundage (152, 28-15), Kenner French (160, 35-8), Shane French (170, 28-10), Dylan Swenson (170, 17-9), Drew Hale (182, 31-10), Wade French (195, 37-9), Cannon Newman (220, 6-6), Stone Segala (220, 11-17) and Conner Birch (285, 10-16).
Pleasant Grove and Herriman will also be facing a young and talented Jordan team. The Beetdiggers qualified 14 wrestlers from the 5A divisional A qualifier and finished in third place in the team standings.
Jordan finished with one individual champ, Tayler Johnson (145, 37-7), while Clay Moss (195, 29-7) took home second place in his weight class.
There are obviously no guarantees in the world of sports, but with eight returning state placers — including four individual state champions — the Vikings should be considered a definite favorite in 5A.
Other returning individual state champions in 5A are Alta’s Matt Findlay (126), Syracuse’s Teague Vigil (152), Kearns’ Colton Grossaint (195) and Taylorsville’s Roy Nash (220).
As expected, Maple Mountain took care of business and earned the top spot in the Region 8 tournament. However, the razor-thin margin was way too close for comfort for the Golden Eagles.
“I think it really will come down to us and Box Elder, but there are always teams that you cannot look past,” said Maple Mountain 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.”
Maple Mountain squeezed past both Salem Hills (331.5) and Wasatch (316) to take home the region title with 342.5 team points.
The Golden Eagles completely dominated the lower weight divisions, as they took first place in all five weight divisions spanning from 113 to 138 pounds, along with the 152- and 170-pound weight divisions.
Leading the way for Maple Mountain was defending state champ Taylor LaMont (132, 48-5), who took down Salem Hills’ Hunter Warren in the Region 8 championship.
Other standouts for the region champs include freshman Ryan Hansen (120, 45-10), who defeated teammate Marshall Curtis for the 120-pound title, and Tanner Cox (113, 40-11).
Maple Mountain’s other individual champions consist of Trent Kelly (126, 44-8), Johnny O’Hearon (138, 51-4), Brooks Robinson (152, 53-7) and undefeated Kimball Bastion (52-0) in the 170-pound division.
However, with Wasatch joining 4A this year, the 4A field is extremely deep and there are a few teams that could come out on top this weekend.
The teams that should give Maple Mountain a run for its money are Region 6 champion Clearfield, Region 7 champion Mountain View, Region 5 champion Mountain Crest and Region 5 runner-up Box Elder.
Clearfield qualified 11 wrestlers to the state tournament, including four individual champs in Logan Swallow (106, 34-7), Daxton Arnold (126, 21-14), Ben Bolingbroke (145, 37-9) and Kolton Burgess (170, 35-6).
“We are just going to work hard this week, take it one match at a time, and hopefully we can get all of these kids who worked hard and deserve to be here where they want to be, too,” Clearfield coach Tom Schmidt said.
Meanwhile, Mountain Crest qualified 19 wrestlers and defeated perennial league champion Box Elder in Region 5 and Mountain View completely dominated Region 7, with five individual champs with 19 wrestlers qualifying for state.
“We have got to keep winning matches that we’re not supposed to win,” Mountain Crest coach Guy Burdett said. “We’ve been doing that all year, and we need to do it next week. If we can do that, we’ll be in the mix.”
Box Elder’s Matt Williams (152, 42-1) claimed the most outstanding wrestler award in the upper weight class in Region 5, while the Bees’ other first-place finishers were junior Kyle Smith (126, 28-16), Teagan Hubbard (138, 37-7), Breckin Gunter (195, 41-1) and Schafer Lange (220, 34-9).
“As far as our team goes, Mountain Crest and Maple Mountain both have a lot of good wrestlers. But we feel good about the group we’ve got and we’ll go down there and give ‘em all we’ve got,” said Williams.
With such a deep and talented 4A class, the state tournament should go down to the wire.
Just a year ago, Delta topped Payson by just 7.5 points to capture its fifth-straight 3A state title. Now that Delta has moved to 2A, Payson has been presented with an opportunity to take the Rabbits’ crown.
Payson easily won the 3A Southern division meet last weekend, and it returns five state placers from last year, including two individual champions.
With both Josh Jensen (106) and Riley Loveless (120) on their side, the Lions sit in a great spot to make a run at the state title this year.
Despite losing powers Jed Mellen (138, 50-2), Kaelen Loveless (160, 46-6) and Devan Judd (195, 44-5), Payson has plenty of returning talent highlighted by Jensen, Loveless and their three other returning placers.
With the last two 3A championships being decided by a combined margin of just 18.5 points, the team race should be tight once again, with schools such as Uintah and Bear River nipping at the Lions’ heels all weekend.
Other returning 3A individual state champions are Cedar’s Dusty Hone (126), Uintah’s Aaron Dick (220) and Cole Mair (285).
When you’ve won 13 of the past 16 state titles in 2A, it’s pretty fair to assume you’re a favorite to repeat as state champs.
Despite losing three of its dominant individual state champions in Nick Sorenson (120), Don E. Fullmer (170) and Jeremy Aleman (220), Millard’s expectations remain the same.
With 10 state placers returning from last year, including individual champions Chase Kelly (132) and Rudy Alcala (138), and another 2A divisional A victory under their belts, the Eagles have the talent and depth to be a front-runner in 2A once again.
“We have put together a pretty good lineup. We aren’t a team with a bunch of star power,” Millard coach Blake Turner said. “We are just a real solid team, and it’s going to take a full team effort to have a shot at winning it this year.”
Beaver finished right behind Millard in 2A last year, and with the two-time defending 3A champs, the Delta Rabbits, coming to 2A this year, the Eagles will have their work cut out for them in a competitive 3A state tournament.
Delta came out on top on the other side of the 2A divisional (B), which was no surprise to anyone, and had an impressive eight first-place finishers.
The Rabbits’ first-place finishers — Trevor Poulsen (106), Josh Allen (113), Bracken Lovell (126), Victor Almanza (138), Morgan Bogue (145), McQuae Anderson (152), Kyle Leavitt (182) and David Schena (195) — will all look to help Delta chalk up another state title.
The Beavers finished right behind Delta in the 2A divisional B tournament to take home second place, and return seven state placers from last year’s squad, including individual state champ Kyle Evans (106).
“They (Delta) do have a great team and a great lineup, and I’m sure they are picked to be the favorite. But with a lot of hard work, hopefully we can get there,” Turner added.
With the majority of individual state champions back from last year, Class 1A figures to produce a very competitive and exciting tournament this season.
Two-time defending state champion Altamont took home first place at the 1A Northern divisional meet last weekend and returns five top-three finishers from last year, including individual champ Brady Farnsworth (113).
“It’s going to be very close. Between Monticello and us, we should be in the top two, I think,” Altamont coach Cory Allred said.
Altamont also qualified 19 wrestlers for the state tournament, including seven first-place finishers, as the Longhorns look to three-peat in an impressive 1A class.
Altamont’s first-place finishers from last weekend’s Northern divisional meet include Farnsworth (120), Austin Atwood (126), Domanik Stansfield (145), Derrik Thompson (160), Michael Foy (170), Tony Brown (195) and Talon Gines (285).
Altamont did lose five top-three state placers from last season, but its experience and depth should be enough to make another deep run at a state title.
Monticello finished second at state last year and returns individual state champions Hunter Bowring (120), Cole Eldredge (145) and Austin Wilcox (182).
Monticello came out on top at the 1A Southern divisional meet last weekend, as the Buckaroos qualified 15 wrestlers and had an impressive seven first-place finishers, including Shandon Bradford (120), Bowring (126), Brandon Musselman (138), Eldredge (152), Eric Anderson (170), Wilcox (182) and Parker Knudsen (285).
Other returning 1A individual state champs are Duchesne’s Lane Coil (106) and Piute’s Zack Allen (132.)
The high school state wrestling tournament kicks off Thursday night at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724