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State prep wrestling tourney to begin

"Wrestlemania" - the prep version, at least - will make its return to Utah when the state wrestling tournaments get under way at the E Center on Thursday.

As they last did at the Salt Palace in 1993, wrestlers from all of the state's classifications will compete for their respective championships simultaneously at the same venue. The three-day tourney will include 924 wrestlers competing in 1,624 individual bouts in 1A-5A.In this case, quantity also means quality. The five meets will feature a total of 18 wrestlers who are ranked nationally by Wrestling USA magazine.

The state's senior class is especially strong this year, topped by Taylorsville's Justin Ruiz, who is the nation's top-ranked 189-pounder. The other nationally ranked seniors include: West Jordan's Levi Martinez (103, 17th); Uintah's Ryan Lewis (119, 3rd); Brighton's Brady Jones (119, fifth); Orem's Aaron Holker (125, 10th); West Jordan's Gabe Vigil (130, 10th); Payson's B.J. Wright (140, 11th); and Pleasant Grove's Mark Blain (145, ninth).

"This is the best crop of seniors probably to come out of the state," said Taylorsville coach Mark Campbell.

Six juniors are among the nation's best: Wasatch's Steve Cordova (119, eighth); Juab's Andy Messersmith (125, sixth); Morgan's Ed Kinsey (135, 25th); Box Elder's Brandon Ripplinger (145, 25th); Wayne's Wayne Chappell (189, eighth); and Weber's Brady Brisky (275, 17th).

Wasatch has a pair of ranked sophomores in Mitch Morgan (125, 2nd) and Richie Cordova (119, fourth), along with Payson's Jacob Wright (135, 11th).

Layton's Josh Lamano is the youngest Utahn to jump into the national spotlight. The freshman is already ranked sixth in the nation at 112 pounds.

Defending 5A champion West Jordan looks to be a top contender again, but the Jaguars suffered losses to Taylorsville in both their dual meet and in the Region 2 championships. T-Ville has a slight edge as it qualified the most wrestlers in the state with 20. West Jordan will have 19 grapplers at the meet. Hillcrest, Layton and Mountain View also figure to be in the mix.

In the 4A ranks, Pleasant Grove's string of six straight championships looks like it could come to a halt this weekend. Box Elder, Payson, Spanish Fork and Sky View all have a legitimate shot at becoming the new head of the class.

Class 3A could also see a long-time champ make way for some new blood. Wasatch has won five in a row, but Uintah, Morgan, North Sanpete and Delta could each rise to the top.

South Summit has a big challenge ahead of it to make it four straight 2A titles. Millard and Juab are both coming into the tourney looking strong.

The 1A race should pan out to be a rematch of the Region 15 championships, with defending champ Panguitch and Wayne expected to battle for No. 1. The Badgers claimed the league crown last week.

The action will take place Thursday through Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. each day.