OREM The Payson wrestling team climbed its way to the top of the Region 7 heap on Friday, finishing a good tournament showing with a strong performance in the final rounds.
The Lions unseated two-time defending champion Springville on its way to the region championship, setting the tone for what they hope will be a hard push for first place in the state tournament next week.
"It feels good to get it," said Payson coach Chris Loveless. "It's been a little while coming. It's a pretty tough region so we're happy."
Payson ended up winning by a comfortable margin in the final team standings. The Lions tallied 312 points, well ahead of second-place Springville, which had 259. The result didn't necessarily come as an upset many thought this might be Payson's year to win but the Red Devils weren't about to go down without a fight.
"We knew it wasn't going to be a guaranteed thing," Loveless said. "We felt like Springville would give us the most competition. We felt like if we wrestled our best we should be able to win it. We knew we were going to have to come and wrestle ."
With the lead going into the final matches, Payson put the icing on the cake with five individual wins.
"We won a couple of matches that kind of got things rolling," Loveless said. "We're definitely peaking at the right time."
Tito Ortiz set the tone, winning the 112-pound match. Brock Brown and Jeremiah Guzman followed up with wins in the 119- and 130-pound matches, respectively. McCade Ford then grabbed what might have been the win of the tournament when he pulled off an overtime victory against Springville's defending state champion, Hayden Peterson, in the 135-pound match.
"Hayden's a tough kid, as tough as there is in the state," Ford said. "It was a good match. I was proud of the way our team wrestled too. I think we're ready to go into state."
All together Payson qualified 17 wrestlers for the state tournament. Springville also qualified 17, while third-place Provo and fourth-place Mountain View will send 10 each.
Other individual winners were Colton Cannon (145) and Hesston Parkin (171) of Payson, Gerritt Bradley (103), Jason Chamberlain (140) and Bryan Beardall (160) of Springville, Mountain View's Bryce Florea (125) and Kyle Rodda (285), Monte Mchmalhaus (152) and Isaac Brown (215) from Tooele, and Provo's Mick Ellis (189).
Cannon was named the lower-weight outstanding wrestler, and Chamberlain, after winning his fourth region title, received the award for the upper-weight divisions.
Tooele and Orem finished fifth and sixth respectively in the team standings.