All of the kids are coming off a big Christmas break, so it's good to come back and get the second half of the year started with some good matches.
OREM — Take the best high school wrestling talent from around the state, bring them all together on one glorious night for a lineup of promising matches pitting the best vs. the best, and what've you got?
Well, it's the Utah Amateur Wrestling Foundation's 12th annual All-Star Tournament.
And it features the Beehive State's most outstanding grapplers representing all five high school classifications, which will be competing against each other in a unique team format.
They'll converge on the UCCU Center on the campus of Utah Valley University beginning at 7 p.m. this evening.
The only other time you'll find this much high school wrestling talent taking it to the mats at one time is in the annual state championship meets. But in this tournament, All-Star squads are divided into their respective 5A, 4A and 3A divisions, along with a combined 2A/1A team, and they'll be battling for bragging rights with their prep counterparts from across the state.
"It's a good event," said Payson coach Chris Loveless. "It's fun to go and watch some of the best kids in the state wrestle against each other. It's an honor for those kids to be selected to participate in it each year.
"We have a tough schedule every week, and this is another good bunch of matches for us."
Coach Loveless will send four of his wrestlers onto the mats for the 3A team tonight — Mitch Brown (126 pounds), Jed Mellen (132), his son Zac Loveless (138) and Cole Ford (145) — and they'll all face tough opponents.
"All of them are good matchups. and three of them are first-time matchups," the Lions' coach said. "Brown, Ford and Loveless are each wrestling these kids for the first time, so that'll be interesting. Mellen's match is rematch of last year's state championship match against the kid from Logan (Quinn Hinckley).
"All of the kids are coming off a big Christmas break, so it's good to come back and get the second half of the year started with some good matches," Coach Loveless said. "It'll let them know where they're at and what they need to do to get ready for the rest of the season."
Pleasant Grove, the defending 5A state champion, has a pair of wrestlers going tonight in 120-pound Korbin Levin and 220-pound Brandon Dennison, as does last year's 5A runner-up Layton along with Bingham, Alta and Weber.
On the 4A All-Star squad, Maple Mountain and Mountain Crest will be well represented with three wrestlers each in the main event, while perennial prep wrestling powerhouse Box Elder has a pair of grapplers who will be in action.
Delta and Hurricane each have a couple of their guys on the 3A squad, while South Summit, North Sevier and Millard will head up the combined 2A/1A team.
In one of the most promising matches of the night, Layton's Carlos Turner (26-0) and Salem Hills' Derek Mangelson square off in a battle of 285-pound unbeaten big fellas. Between them, the two heavyweights are a combined 46-0 this season.
"I haven't really watched the Salem Hills kid wrestle before," said Layton coach John Fager. "But I know he's a pretty stocky, muscular kid who's athletic.
"My wrestler's strength is that he really has good feel for his body. Not by any means is Carlos a kid who can lift the most weight, but he's gotten a lot stronger the last couple of years and he knows how to use the weight that he has really well."
Coach Fager says the annual All-Star Tournament isn't the biggest prize on the list of wrestling goals each year, but it's one that many young men look forward to with a great deal of anticipation.
And being selected — or not being selected — can provide extra impetus that can propel wrestlers to work even harder for the duration of the season, Fager said.
"It's something that, for sure, kids look forward to," Fager said. "Of course, it's not their main goal — winning a state championship is their main goal — but it's a great honor for them to be selected, and it's something they use to motivate themselves.
"If they're not selected, they can wrestle with a little bit of chip on their shoulder the rest of the season. And if they are selected, it gives them confidence and lets them know that people think they're the best wrestler in 5A, 4A, 3A and so on at that weight."
Coach Fager says the atmosphere at Utah Valley's UCCU Center is pretty darned exciting, too.
"It's really great. Ever since they moved it to UVU, they've had some great turnouts for it," he said.
And some great memories, too.
"My first year of coaching, five years ago, my younger brother was selected and he was supposed to wrestle a kid from Millard that had beaten him a couple of weeks earlier," Fager said. "I honestly didn't think my brother was going to beat him, but my brother fought off his back in the first period, then threw the kid in the second period and stuck him. It was great."
And with that as a backdrop, let the mat matchups begin.
2012 All-Star wrestling matches
138 — Grant LaMont, Maple Mountain (4A) vs.Ken Astle, Layton (5A)
132 — Jed Mellen, Payson (3A)vs.Quinn Hinckley, Logan (4A)
113 — Jory Owens, Panguitch (2A/1A)vs.Dusty Hone, Cedar (3A)
138 — Zach Loveless, Payson (3A)vs.Dixon Richins, North Summit (2A/1A)
113 — Matt Findlay, Alta (5A)vs.Britain Carter, Maple Mountain (4A)
220 — Brian Scott, Hurricane (3A)vs.Sylas Wells, Mountain Crest (4A)
145 — Cole Ford, Payson (3A)vs.Jeff McCormick, South Summit (2A/1A)
126 — Brenden Turner, Millard (2A/1A)vs.Brady Dart, Mountain Crest (4A)
152 — Zach Prince, Hurricane (3A)vs.Rasten Yeates, Box Elder (4A)
120 — Korbin Levin, Pleasant Grove (5A)vs.Bryce Jackman, North Sevier (2A/1A)
170 — Brandon McBride, Olympus (4A)vs.Kyle Foy, Altamont (2A/1A)
126 — Mitch Brown, Payson (3A)vs.Rami Haddadin, Brighton (5A)
220 — Landon Carter, Manti (2A/1A)vs.Brandon Dennison, Pleasant Grove (5A)
132 — Cole Craggs, South Summit (2A/1A)vs.Cody Paraso, West Jordan (5A)
170 — Talon Bryan, Juab (3A)vs.Taylon Niederhauser, Mountain Crest (4A)
195 — Joey Leavitt, South Sevier (2A/1A)vs.Paul Langi, Bingham (5A)
152 — Gavin Godfrey, Alta (5A)vs.Keith Kesler, Millard (2A/1A)
182 — JJ Larson, Bingham (5A)vs.Dakota Sorensen, North Sevier (2A/1A)
285 — Carlos Turner, Layton (5A)vs.Derek Mangelson, Salem Hills (4A)
170 — Zach Coffman, Tooele (3A)vs.Brad Mortensen, Kearns (5A)
285 — Kalob Stevenson, Desert Hills (3A)vs.Sam Embry, South Summit (2A/1A)
106 — Kyle Robison, Millard (2A, 1A)vs.Kyler Machan, Jordan (5A)
113 — Shand Hardy, Box Elder (4A)vs.Josh Boman, Syracuse (5A)
145 — Jesse Carlisle, Maple Mountain (4A)vs.Hunter Riggs, Weber (5A)
120 — Garrett Sweat, Wasatch (3A)vs.Austin Johnson, Viewmont (5A)
160 — Dane Nielson, Delta (3A)vs.Josh Urianza, Kanab (2A/1A)
120 — Brandon Winward, Skyline (4A)vs.Branson Ashworth, Spanish Fork (3A)
106 — Kohl Tolbert, Delta (3A)vs.Jovani Tolayo, Orem (4A)
126 — Morgan Sweat, Wasatch (3A) vs.Austin Rowley, Maple Mountain (4A)
182 — Dustin Christensen, Roy (4A)vs.Ryan Petersen, Delta (3A)
132 — Beau Blackham, Uintahvs.Landon Knutzen, Maple Mountain (4A)
160 — Nick Sorensen, Box Elder (4A)vs.Mack Huntsman, Weber (5A)