PROVO — There should be incredible wrestling on display at Timpview High School this weekend at the Region 8 wrestling tournament. Five returning state champions and seven returning state finalists are among the field as well as some top freshman grapplers.
Several weight classes are simply stacked with talent.
At 160 pounds, Salem Hills' Jacob Armstrong is a returning state champion but might get tested by Spencer Heywood of Wasatch. Both wrestlers are All-Americans based on their second-place finishes at the Reno Tournament of Champions (RTOC). Heywood wrestled at 152 pounds at the RTOC but now will go at 160 pounds for region and state competitions.
Another weight class to watch will be at 120 pounds featuring two returning state placers in Wasatch's Caden Clyde and Spanish Fork's Mason Colledge. But both will be underdogs in the weight class to a pair of Maple Mountain wrestlers, one of whom is a freshman.
Ninth-grader Ryan Hansen is a rising star who owns some incredible wins on the season. In his first high school match he defeated Herriman's Chandler Strand, a two-time state champion. It was no fluke as he beat the Mustang grappler 13-5. Hansen then placed fifth at the Rockwell Rumble where he actually topped teammate Marshall Curtis. These two grapplers grabbed the top seeds for the weekend's competition.
At 152 pounds, Brooks Robinson of Maple Mountain and Salem Hills' Walker VanTassell are likely to tangle for the region title while Wasatch's Albert Jepperson hopes to upset things.
The 106-pound weight class is a deep weight with wrestlers trying to make their mark. A pair of Wasatch wrestlers grabbed the top two seeds. Braiden Parker placed at the RTOC and won the Layton Invitational, while teammate Corbin Smith was third at Layton. Salem Hills has two aspirants as well with Talon Rasmussen, who placed fourth in state last year, and Austin Davis. Provo freshman Schafer Heiner hopes to upset things.
Spanish Fork's Branson Ashworth is a two-time state champion at 145 pounds but might be challenged by Maple Mountain's Cameron Killian. Killian placed in state as a freshman and wrestled in the all-star dual this year while Ashworth has lost just two matches this season, both in prestigious tournaments.
Maple Mountain looks to set the pace in the team race. Besides the wrestlers noted, Taylor LaMont (132 pounds ) and Kimball Bastian (170 pounds) are returning state champions, and Trent Kelly (126) placed second in state.
Kelly will go in as the second seed as Salem Hills freshman Kyle Larsen grabbed the top seed. However, the pair of wrestlers have not met this season.
Salem Hills, Spanish Fork and Wasatch should have an intense battle for second. The battle for fifth could be interesting. Springville has the least wrestlers entered in the tournament but has two top seeds at 220 and 285 pounds with Zach Hansen and Alex Tujillio, respectively.
Host school Timpview has Nate Richardson (195 pounds), and he hopes to bring home the gold for the Thunderbirds. But Richardson will have to knock off Spanish Fork's Harrison King, who has defeated him twice previously. Meanwhile, Provo's best chance to get to the top of the podium is second-seeded Dylan Thomas (285).
Wrestling is set to commence at 1 p.m. Friday and continue on Saturday with the championship finals set to start at 2 p.m.
Brian Preece is a freelance sports writer and was the former head coach at Provo High School from 1994 to 2006.
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