Payson will go into Friday's Region 7 wrestling tournament as the favorite based on their 5-0 record in the duals and some top tournament finishes during the year.
The top challengers to the Lions will come from Springville and perhaps Tooele.
Though the Buffalos were just 2-3 in league duals, Tooele did qualify the most JV wrestlers to the region meet, making what most expected to be a two-team race for the region trophy a bit more complicated.
"I think it will be out of Tooele, Springville and Payson," said Provo head coach Chris Miller, "but I think Payson will probably pull it off."
Miller also praises the tough competition in Region 7. "This is a very tough region from start to finish," he said. "There is going to be a lot of state placers and champions come from our region."
Meanwhile Provo and Mountain View will likely battle it out for fourth place, while rebuilding Orem will have to wait a while before returning to the status of contender at both the region and state level.
Payson will rely on a bevy of talented stars including returning state placers Tito Ortiz (112 pounds), Jeremiah Guzman (130), McCade Ford (135), Jace Harmon (140), CJ Ford (140), Colton Cannon (145), Taggart Miller (152), Hesston Parkin (171) and Norm Adams (189).
However, the Lions have two other wrestlers who should make some noise in the region meet and on into state. Sophomore Brock Brown (119) has beaten some tough opponents this year and will come into the region meet as the top seed.
Freshman Brady Loveless will go 152 pounds though technically ranked as junior varsity to teammate Miller, Loveless has placed in some varsity tournaments, including the Tournament of Champions and the Rocky Mountain Rumble.
Springville has plenty of firepower as well and will rely on three-time region and state champion Jason Chamberlain (140), returning state champion Hayden Petersen (135) and two-time state placer Caleb Christen (145).
Other top Springville wrestlers will be Rick Wirsch (125) Devin Bodily (152), Bryan Beardall (160), and Sebastain Lucio (171). Springville also has some younger wrestlers that may impress.
Tooele does bring in top wrestlers in Daniel Goode (135), Monte Schmalhaus (152), Zeb Hansen (160) and Isaac Brown (215) but the Buffs will hope that their 13 qualifiers from the JV tournament, by far the most of any team, can earn them crucial points as they pursue the Lions and Red Devils.
Provo has came on strong of late, scoring an impressive win over Mountain View in their last dual of the region season. McClain Griffin (125) is a returning state placer as is Shane Liechty (160). Kevin Faires (171), Mick Ellis (189) and Likio Pope (285) bring extra muscle to the Bulldog lineup.
Mountain View has faded a bit of late as the Bruins have fought injuries. Mountain View hopes that the return of Chris Ferguson (160) will bolster their region success. The Bruins have three returning state placers with Jake Frederickson (119), Bryce Florea (125) and Clay Frost (145) who should do well.
Meanwhile Orem will put high hopes on Zach Steele (160) and Ammon Evans (215).
The weight class to watch will be 135 pounds. Petersen (Springville) is a returning state champion, while Goode (Tooele) placed second in state last year in 3A. However, McCade Ford of Payson is a returning state placer who has beat Goode in a tournament.Another top weight will be 145 pounds where Frost (Mountain View), Cannon (Payson) and Christen (Springville) will battle. All three placed in the top four at state last year.
Region 7 wrestling
Orem High School will host the 2008 Region 7 championship meet this season. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. Friday, with the championship matches scheduled at 6 p.m.
5. Mountain View