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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Hurricane's Zach Prince wrestles Salem Hills' Jacob Armstrong Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 in the Utah Amateur Wrestling Foundation's all-star matches at Utah Valley University.

Wrestling is one of the earliest modern sports still widely participated in today. The hand-to-hand combat sport dates back as far as the 12th or 13th century BC with its mentioning in Homer's "The Iliad."

The popularity of the sport has escalated in Utah since Davis High captured the Class 1A tournament in 1938. Many grapplers test their limits in the dry, hot summer days in anticipation of the winter season. Tournaments are gaining considerable interest and fans are itching for more gut-wrenches, bridges, grapevines, headlocks and arm bars.

Despite the large number of wrestlers who have participated in the sport over the years, only 24 wrestlers have completed the perfect sweep and claimed the individual state championship all four years of high school eligibility.

This season, Maple Mountain’s Britain Carter, Hurricane’s Zach Prince and Altamont’s Kyle Foy have the distinct possibility of joining that elite group and adding their names into state lure as No. 25, No. 26 and No. 27.

“It’s been a goal that I’ve had ever since I took state as a freshman,” Carter said. “It would be a dream really. Ever since I was younger, just having that possibility of being of a four-timer and then having it come true would be a dream basically.”

“It would mean a lot,” added Prince of the possibility. “It’s what I’ve been working toward this whole time I’ve been in high school. It would mean a lot.”

Foy, who has lost only 12 matches throughout his high school career, uttered the same sentiments of accomplishing the ultimate goal.

“It would be awesome. It was one of the goals I set my freshman year and it’s going to be fun to fill it up, hopefully,” he said. “I knew it was possible, but I knew I’d have to work at it. Not just during wrestling season but in the summertime, too.”

High school can be an overwhelming, terrifying experience for a 15-year-old still trying to find an identity. The number of freshmen that capture state medals are few and far between. The long odds were difficult to overcome for the three grapplers, but as time went on it became apparent the challenge could be achieved.

“Coming into high school, I was kind of scared of all the big guys,” Carter explained. “I was just a small freshman and I had always taken state in junior high, so I was good, but I was intimidated. As the year went on I saw that I was winning all my matches and I was like, ‘this could be a possibility.’ ”

The endless dedication poured into honing their traits has equated to excelling in other areas of life, too. Carter, who plans to compete in college, is gaining interest from Columbia, who he described as his “main offer” along with Harvard and Stanford.

Carter maintains a cumulative 3.96 GPA and is nearing an associate degree. He scored a 30 on his ACT compared to the Utah state average composite score of 20.7.

“I think part of the reason I’m so good at academics is because my whole life with wrestling I had to put in the work and then I would reach the rewards,” Carter explained. “I feel that the same with academics. You have to put in the work and then you get the reward later. It’s not instant gratification.”

Foy believes his time on the mats can serve as a barometer of success in the professional world after high school.

“It’s like an everyday job,” he said. “You got to show up on time and ready to work.”

The three wrestlers capturing the elusive fourth medal isn’t a forgone conclusion by any means. Last year, Payson’s Mitch Brown was upended by Wasatch’s Morgan Sweat in the final match during his quest for No. 4.

“I don’t feel as much pressure as I did when I was younger,” Prince said. “I feel more relaxed now.”

The heaviness of actually earning the fourth medal is undoubtedly present for the three seniors. But, as Foy points out, it’s all an approach and mentality. Although the significance is obviously greater, it’s just like the first three years.

“I just got to keep wrestling hard,” he said.

And if they do? Fans from Maple Mountain, Hurricane and Altamont will need to bring the brooms for the clean sweep.

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com

Twitter: @tphibbsami

4-time state wrestling champions:

Allen Lake, Delta (1978-1981)

Trent Bell, Piute (1990-1993)

Brandon Moat, Duchesne (1990-1993)

Cody Sanderson, Wasatch (1992-1995)

Roger Smith, Piute (1992-1995)

Rocky Smart, Pleasant Grove (1993-1996)

Kyle Bell, Piute (1994-1997)

Brian Blain, Pleasant Grove (1994-1997)

Cael Sanderson, Wasatch (1994-1997)

Bryant Anderson, Wayne (1999-2002)

Jeff Newby, Box Elder (1999-2002)

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Andrew Hochstrasser, Tooele (2001-2004)

Mark Pentz, Millard (2003-2006)

Jake Swensen, North Sanpete (2003-2006)

Sean Porter, Davis (2004-2007)

Shay Warren, Weber (2004-2007)

Aaron Butler, Monticello (2005-2008)

Jason Chamberlain, Springville (2005-2008)

Ethen Lofthouse, Mountain Crest (2007-2010)

Bryson Foy, Altamont (2007-2010)

Raider Lofthouse, Mountain Crest (2007-2010)

Kade Moss, Bingham (2007-2010)

Jake McCormick, South Summit (2009-2012)

Brandon McBride, Olympus (2009-2012) – only 2011 and 2012 were in Utah