The 1993-94 wrestling season was a special one for West High. That year the Panthers finished second in the state and placed 10 wrestlers in the top six. Two West High wrestlers, Jeff Holtry and Brandon Dansie, completed undefeated seasons with state titles.
Both Holtry and Dansie are Utah wrestling legends. The former won three state titles and competed in the Dapper Dan Classic, which pits the top U.S. wrestler against the top Pennsylvania wrestler. Meanwhile, the 1994 state title was the first of two state titles and undefeated seasons for Dansie, who went to compete at the University of Wyoming, where he became an NCAA academic All-American.
Fast forward 20 years, and the Pleasant Grove Vikings are expected to win the team title in 5A. However, even though West won’t contend for a trophy this go around, a pair of Panther wrestlers head into the 5A state tournament Thursday at the Maverik Center ranked No. 1 and hoping to make some history of their own. These wrestlers are Zach Colangelo and Will Lang.
Colangelo and Lang are two standouts in a program that has struggled for the last decade or so. Since Holtry and Dansie graduated, the Panther program has had only one state champion, Reece Peck in 1998.
Colangelo will compete in the 152-pound weight class and goes in as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state. He currently boasts a 36-4 record this season and the senior has a career 123-33 mark.
Colangelo also shines in the classroom with a 3.8 cumulative GPA while taking challenging A.P. and honors-level classes.
Colangelo vaulted to the status of favorite for the 5A title based on his win over Pleasant Grove’s Josh Anderson at the divisional qualifying tournament last week. Colangelo was down two points in the final seconds but earned a takedown at the buzzer in regulation before winning the match in overtime.
Anderson will hope to avenge the defeat at state, but he’ll have to get through another top competitor in Layton’s Colton Marshall, while Colangelo, if he does what is expected, should be waiting.
West head coach Mike Schmidt, a member and state placer on the 1994 squad, has a special relationship with Colangelo.
“Zach and I started this together as his freshman year was my first year as head coach,” said Schmidt. “It has been great to watch him develop into the wrestler he is today. Zach will be wrestling Division I at Davidson next season and it’s exciting to know that we were a part of helping him reach that goal.”
Meanwhile, Lang is a junior and currently is ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds. Lang also won the divisional qualifier beating Pleasant Grove’s Marcos Garcia 7-1.
Lang is 29-2 on the season and has a 109-21 overall record. Lang placed fourth in state as a freshman and second in state last year. Barring injury, he'll leave West with more wins than any other wrestler in school history.
Like Colangelo, Lang does great things in the classroom. He carries a 4.0 GPA while taking classes in West’s highly regarded International Baccalaureate program.
Both Colangelo and Lang won the prestigious Layton Invitational and both placed at the super tough Reno Tournament of Champions. Lang also competed in the All-Star Dual, where he defeated Mountain View’s Micah Gill, the top-ranked wrestler in 4A.
The most likely challenger to Lang will be Davis’ Wyatt Koelling, a sophomore superstar with a 39-2 mark. But Schmidt feels that Lang is ready for the task.
“Will is very focused on his goal of being a state champion,” said Schmidt. “He came up a little short last year finishing second and it really motivated him to work harder. It doesn't matter if he is sick or rehabbing an injury he is at practice every day and doing everything he can to make sure he reaches that goal.”
Understandably, there is plenty excitement among the Panther wrestling faithful. In a 5A state tournament expected to be dominated by Pleasant Grove, Layton and Syracuse, perhaps some of the individual gold will be earned by the wrestlers wearing West's red and black.
Brian Preece is a freelance sports writer. He also was the head coach at Provo HS from 1994-2006. Before that Preece was an assistant coach for the West High wrestling program from 1989-1994.