It’s been great. It’s been exactly 50 years this year since we’ve taken state last, so it was our goal since the start of the season and we just worked so hard every day for this. —Bear River wrestler Cooper Skinner
OREM — Five decades removed from its last state wrestling championship, Bear River did everything it could to make sure its 50th anniversary would be one to remember.
The Bears' constant hard work and dedication this season helped set them up for a successful state tournament performance, anchored by four individual state champs and an impressive 231.5-198.0 win en route to their first 3A state championship since 1966 Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
“It’s been great. It’s been exactly 50 years this year since we’ve taken state last, so it was our goal since the start of the season and we just worked so hard every day for this. We’re finally reaping the rewards for all our hard work. We just had to go out and prove how good we were, because we knew it,” Cooper Skinner said.
When asked what the biggest difference maker was this year compared to the last 49 seasons, Bear River coach Jeff Smart attributed his team's tremendous work ethic and constant belief in themselves as the keys to their success.
“The (biggest) difference was kids believing in each other and loving each other. Those kids truly love each other and believe if they put in the work, good things happen. That was our key all year. This means everything to us,” he said.
Bear River got rolling early and managed to advance a total of six wrestlers into state-title matches to put itself in a tremendous position to win. Round after round, it consistently rose to the occasion.
After having just one top-three placer in the first three rounds of the night, Holden Richards (126), Skinner (138) and Kaygen Canfield (145) all dug deep and came up with three of the next four individual state titles to take control.
“It’s unbelievable — I don’t really know how to deal with it until now that it’s here. But I’ve been working hard for it all year, so it all came down to this,” Skinner said.
The Bears refused to back down and finished strong with two runners-up in Jordan Watson (195) and Nathan Heppler (220) and one state champ in Josh Madsen (285).
With its huge start and impressive final push, Bear River polished off the night with a convincing 33.5-point victory over second-place Juab to finally get back to where it was 50 years ago as state champion.
“It’s pretty cool — it’s really cool for our whole town. We’ve been working really hard to get to this point, and we’re really excited for how we’ve come and all the work that we’ve done. It all happens with our hard work and it paid off for us. It means a lot,” Smart added.
1. Bear River, 231.5
2. Juab, 198.0
3. Morgan, 149.0
4. Desert Hills, 140.0
5. Cedar, 115.0
6. Tooele, 115.0
7. Snow Canyon, 113.5
8. Canyon View, 99.0
106 — Championship: Gentry Warner (Juab) 46-5, So., over Jate Frost (Union) 40-7, Fr., (Dec 6-1); 3. Zack Bingham, Bear River; 4. Dylian Moore, Stansbury; 5. Anthony Herrera, Stansbury.
113 — Championship: Brady Knight (Tooele) 44-7, Jr., over Randal Donn (Pine View) 31-14, Sr., (Dec 10-7); 3. Ryan Ball, Canyon View; 4. Nate Olsen, Desert Hills; 5. Brad Judd, Carbon.
120 — Championship: Kody Hafen (Snow Canyon) 54-6, Sr., over Jayce Lind (Juab) 36-16, Jr., (Dec 6-4); 3. Brady Lowry, Canyon View; 4. Michael Wilson, Stansbury; 5. Sandon Stokes, Cedar.
126 — Championship: Holden Richards (Bear River) 33-6, Jr., over Carlitos Nava (Morgan) 32-3, Jr., (Dec 5-4); 3. Trevor Gleed, Tooele; 4. Zayden Rowley, Desert Hills; 5. Parker Elison, Union.
132 — Championship: Raynger Keckler (Logan) 38-3, Jr., over Antonio Nava (Morgan) 31-8, So., (MD 11-3); 3. Chance Bundy, Desert Hills; 4. Kenyon Green, Union; 5. Christian Case, Snow Canyon.
138 — Championship: Cooper Skinner (Bear River) 37-2, Jr., over Gatlin Peterson (North Sanpete) 25-5, (Dec 7-1); 3. Ben Worlton, Pine View; 4. Lance Sanchez, Logan; 5. Trent Wilson, Snow Canyon.
145 — Championship: Kaygen Canfield (Bear River) 25-3, So., over Mason Mangelson (Juab) 39-12, Jr., (Fall 3:13); 3. Tanner Terry, Desert Hills; 4. James Wilson, Cedar; 5. Dawson Stewart, Stansbury.
152 — Championship: Liam Williams (Desert Hills) 39-1, Jr., over Brady Jones (Desert Hills) 45-12, Jr., (TF-1.5 5:20 (15-0); 3. Hayden Mangelson, Juab; 4. Bracken Stokes, Bear River; 5. David Carreau, Tooele.
160 — Championship: Joey Aagard (Juab) 39-13, So., over Eric Gourde (Canyon View) 43-9, Sr., (Dec 11-5); 3. Wynne Morriss, Logan; 4. William Brown, Ben Lomond; 5. Bryken Jensen, Bear River.
170 — Championship: Owen Pentz (Morgan) 39-2, Jr., over Brier Bryan (Juab) 45-9, Sr., (Fall 4:56); 3. Tyler Haley, Canyon View; 4. Byron Anderson, Desert Hills; 5. Quaid Murray, Cedar.
182 — Championship: Ashton Seely (Juab) 48-3, Jr., over Jackson Gavin (Tooele) 52-7, Sr., (Dec 8-2); 3. Tanner Nelson, Snow Canyon; 4. Cutler Thomas, Dixie; 5. Brenr Nelson, Pine View.
195 — Championship: Chase Trussell (Morgan) 37-6, So., over Jordan Watson (Bear River) 45-4, Jr., (Dec 12-5); 3. McCrae Murray, Cedar; 4. Hootchy Brewer, North Sanpete; 5. Wyatt Peterson, Richfield.
220 — Championship: Wyatt Ekblad (Morgan) 37-2, Sr., over Nathan Heppler (Bear River) 31-7, Sr., (Fall 1:13); 3. Dallyn Mower, Carbon; 4. Nathan Ellis, Cedar; 5. Brent Hauata, Juab.
285 — Championship: Josh Madsen (Bear River) 28-8, Jr., over Bundy Sewell (Desert Hills) 25-13, Jr., (Fall 7:01); 3. Daniel Jordan, Cedar; 4. Desmond Wise, Snow Canyon; 5. Jacob Peterson, Tooele.
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724