They have wrestled tough; they’ve all wrestled hard. We’ve lost some heartbreakers, but we’ve won some good ones and that’s just wrestling. But the kids have wrestled tough. Every match that we’ve lost, they worked really hard and nobody quit. —Payson coach Chris Loveless, on his team

WEST VALLEY CITY — A year ago, Delta topped Payson by just 7 1/2 points to capture its fifth-straight 3A state title. Now that Delta has moved to 2A, Payson has been presented with an opportunity to finally take the 3A crown.

The Payson Lions performed well all day Friday and own a 164-131.5 lead over second-place Juab heading into the final day of the state tournament Saturday.

“They have wrestled tough; they’ve all wrestled hard,” Payson coach Chris Loveless said of his athletes. “We’ve lost some heartbreakers, but we’ve won some good ones and that’s just wrestling. But the kids have wrestled tough. Every match that we’ve lost, they worked really hard and nobody quit.”

Payson battled Juab and Uintah throughout the afternoon, as all three teams finished with three semifinal winners and sit atop the 3A leaderboard heading into Saturday's final day.

The Loveless family was especially impressive and led the Lions for most of the afternoon. Jed, defending champion Riley and freshman Hagen all knocked off their opponents to survive and make it through another tough day.

“Riley is obviously a great team leader. He’s come through and his results just speak for himself,” said Loveless. “Also, Hagen stepped up for us today big time and won a match for us.”

Riley (126) has anchored Payson for his entire career with the Lions and continued to do so Friday afternoon, as he sealed a ticket to the 126-pound championship with a victory over Morgan’s Owen Pentz.

“It was pretty huge for myself, personally, but I feel like it was even bigger for my town and for everybody that came here to watch me,” Loveless said after his final match of the night. “Me winning gave us a real morale boost, on top of my cousin winning and our 20-pounder losing.”

Loveless will look to continue his winning ways Saturday afternoon at the Maverik Center, where he will face Kendric Coonis of Uintah in an attempt to capture his second consecutive individual title.

With just one more day of wrestling and teams nipping at the Lions’ heels all weekend long, Coach Loveless knows Payson has to perform well on the last day of the meet.

“We need to come back (Saturday) and just wrestle through the back door,” Loveless added. “We need to come back and have the kids take third, fourth, and win those matches; that’s what it’s going to take.”

Class 3A wrestling tournament


At Maverik Center

1. Payson, 164.0 2. Juab 131.5 3. Uintah 129.0 4. Union 117.0 5. Desert Hills 114.0 6. Pine View 97.5 7. Bear River 88.5 8. Cedar City 76.5 9. Morgan 74.5 10. Dixie 59.0 11. Canyon View 48.0 12. Hurricane 45.5 13. Tooele 44.0 14. Stansbury 29.5

106 — Drew Hansen, Pine View def. Cooper Skinner, Bear River 11-9. Jed Loveless, Payson def. Dylan Brown, Union 5-1.

113 — Nickolas Bingham, Bear River def. Carlos Nava, Morgan 8-3. Tanner Memmott, Juab def. Cameron Dickinson, Richfield 9-6.

120 — Jarrid Lavios, Tooele def. Josh Jensen, Payson 7-4. Josh Pettus, Hurricane def. Jayden Pentz, Morgan 4-3.

126 — Kendric Coonis, Uintah def. Devin Morrison, Richfield 7-6. Riley Loveless, Payson def. Owen Pentz, Morgan Fall 1:58

132 — Jaden Peterson, Pine View def. Zackary Drifill, Canyon View 7-6. Dusty Hone, Cedar def. Tyler Manookin, Payson TF—1.5 5:10.

138 — Jake Daniels, Union def. Kolton Lynn, Juab 5-2. Hagen Loveless, Payson def. Cody Merkley, Uintah 9-3.

145 — Beau Blackham, Uintah def. Jake Maloney, Canyon View TF—1.5 4:10. Brandon Parry, Desert Hills def. Ethan Mcpherson, Juab 6-2.

152 — Zac Worlton, Pine View def. Dakota Labrum, Uintah Fall 5:19. Ryan Hatfield, Juab def. Payden Osborn, Payson 7-3.

160 — Dallin Brooks, Cedar def. Dillon Gurr, Union 4-3. Ashton Seely, Juab def. John Harmon, Payson 1-0.

170 — Kaden Campbell, Union def. Stetson Jones, Dixie 9-2. Dalton Harmon, Juab def. Ethan Del Toro, Desert Hills Fall 3:37.

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182 — Trevor Ottenschott, Desert Hills def. Kyler Kelsch, Dixie 4-1. Hunter Neville, Desert Hills def. Will Ford, Payson 3-0.

195 — Mikaio Schwalger, Pine View def. Aaron Dick, Uintah 6-4. Cody Stevenson, Desert Hills def. Kyle Peterson, Bear River 9-6.

220 — Joseph Takau, Dixie def. Derek Johnson, Payson 6-4. Tyler Stevenson, Desert Hills def. Dylan Tripp, Cedar 5-0.

285 — Cole Mair, Uintah def. Randhu Zavala, Ben Lomond Fall 3:53. Kenneth Ross, Union def. Brian Hoschouer, Payson Fall 2:56.

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724