SPRINGVILLE Undoubtedly, Cael Sanderson is the greatest wrestler the Beehive state has ever produced. The former Wasatch High star won four state titles in high school and then went on to become the greatest college wrestler ever, winning four NCAA titles and compiling a 159-0 career record, and then wrestling in two Olympics, wining the gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
But as good as Sanderson was in high school with his four titles and 127-3 career record many believe Springville's Jason Chamberlain has a valid claim on being the best prep wrestler Utah has ever produced.
With four state titles of his own and a 191-2 career mark Chamberlain has equaled or surpassed Sanderson's high school career on many levels. Both wrestlers grappled in national tournaments winning prestigious events like the Reno Tournament of Champions. Both were Junior National Champions in freestyle so in many aspects their careers are very comparable.
Just after winning his fourth state title, Chamberlain was asked such a question by a circle of reporters on whether he considered himself Utah's all-time best wrestler.
"I don't know if I am the best wrestler," said a humble and reflective Chamberlain, "but I would have to consider myself one of the best ...
"A lot of people don't know the work I put into this," he added. "I watch a lot of video and I'm always working on my techniques to get better."
His head coach, Justin Judkins, said he sees Chamberlain as the best wrestler in the history of Utah.
"The reason he is unbeatable is he has used all of that to get to a point where his mental toughness and attitude are second to none, not to mention the fact that his positioning is nearly perfect."
Before Chamberlain can be considered as the Utah's all-time best wrestler, one last event the Senior Nationals stands in his way. It's an event Sanderson won in 1997.
The Senior Nationals is considered the premier high school event. Approximately 800 of the nation's best wrestlers will converge on Virginia Beach this month to battle it out. To be invited to the big event, a wrestler has to place first or second in state during their high school career, and some of the weight classes will have more than 80 wrestlers, making the road to the title excruciatingly difficult.
Even though Utah had two four-time state champions last year along with a dozen or so elite caliber wrestlers, Utah could not place any wrestler in the Top 8 or All-American status. However, Utah, and Utah County in particular, has shown well over the years in this event.
Two seasons ago, Provo's Nathaniel Holt and Uintah's Levi Mele placed second, while Morgan's Josh Wilson placed third.
In 1998, Utah actually crowned three national champions, including Orem's Aaron Holker. Holker went to be a three-time NCAA All-American and won the NCAA meet his junior year at Iowa State.
For Chamberlain, winning the Senior Nationals will cap off an incredible career. The Red Devil star will go into the tournament as the favorite, ranked No. 1 by every wrestling publication of note.
Chamberlain won't be Utah's only legitimate contender for a championship as Wasatch's Jake Salazar goes into the meet ranked No. 3 by Amateur Wrestling News.
Many coaches feel the class of 2008, led by the undefeated Chamberlain, may be the best group of wrestlers Utah has produced since the storied Class of 1998 that crowned those three national champions, seven total All-Americans and led Team Utah to a third-place finish of the 48 participating states.