AMERICAN FORK The Spanish Fork Dons dominated the Region 4 wrestling tournament, outpacing second-place Lehi by more than 60 points and crowning five individual champions.
No Don was more impressive than 135-pounder Rodney Cox, who in the first round pinned Lehi's Cam Phillips, a state second-place finisher last year.
Cox immediately took down Phillips and turned him for two points to build a 4-0 lead. Then Cox turned Phillips one last time in a bottom leg cradle for the pin in what his head coach David Clark described as a "statement win."
"He's looking tough," said Clark said. This is a good opportunity for him (to take state)."
While Cox was excited about his first-place region finish, the Don senior seems even more thrilled about his team's performance. "I got a good feeling we're going to do well," said Cox said. "We've had a lot of good leadership. Everybody cares about the team."
His coach echoed Cox's sentiments. "Our kids really came through. It has been fun to coach these kids. They like to wrestle, and they work hard," said Clark said.
Clark also credited his assistant coaches. "I have some of the best wrestling minds in the state on my staff. We wouldn't be in this position without my assistant coaches." His staff includes Jed Ashworth, JD Shepherd, Joe Hernandez, Fred Rowland and John Webb. Rowland and Webb are former Head Coaches that are both in the Utah Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Other Don champions were Kaleb Ashworth (125 pounds), Hadley Thorpe (140), David Sorenson (152) and Kyle Weight (171). Thorpe wrestled teammate Tom Clark in the finals and secured a takedown at the final buzzer to win 11-9.
The Pioneers held off host American Fork for second place, putting four wrestlers on top of the podium Brennan Christensen (112), Jacob Sasser (160), Taylor Savio (189) and Dylan Stadel (285). Savio and Stadel both secured first-period pins against Cavemen opponents Kyle Sumsion and Jason Day.
American Fork crowned two champs Justin Ballantyne beat teammate/twin Jason at 103 pounds and Michael Hortman decisioned Pleasant Grove's Alex Nicholes 11-7 in the night's most tense and controversial match.
Trailing 6-5 with 20 seconds left, Nicholes secured a takedown on the edge of the mat before things got real interesting.
With 11 seconds left, Nicholes was called for stalling for the second time as he held onto to Hortman's ankle in an attempt to ride him out for the win. The penalty point knotted the score 7-7.
Then on the restart, two straight false starts by Nicholes gave Hortman an 8-7 lead. Nicholes decided then to give Hortman an escape and his final desperation takedown attempt resulted in actually giving Hortman one final takedown to win the match 11-7.
The Viking fans were visibly upset with the controversial last seconds, meanwhile American Fork assistant coach Cole Kelley was warned by the officials for leaving the coaching area.
Other individual champions were Craig Young (Pleasant Grove) at 119 pounds, Paul Johnson (Lone Peak) at 130 pounds and Tyler Curtis (Lone Peak) at 215 pounds.
The final team standings had Spanish Fork out front with 258.5 points, Lehi second with 197.5 points, American Fork third with 177.0 points, Lone Peak fourth with 151.0 points, Pleasant Grove fifth with 123.0 points and Timpanogos a distant sixth with 37.0 points.