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From 1A to 5A, top teams take commanding leads

Taylorsville wrestling coach Mark Campbell nearly bounced out of the E Center Friday night.

His Warriors put themselves in good position to claim their first state wrestling championship with a solid semifinal round at the 5A state tournament.Tatylorsville improved its score to 161.5 points after two days of competition, giving the Warriors a comfortable lead over second-place Layton. The Lancers have 137 points going into today's championship round.

The finals for all five state classifications are today, beginning with the parade of champions at 5:30 p.m. at the E Center.

Campbell is probably floating a bit higher than most after the semifinal rounds concluded Friday night.

"I'm on cloud nine," he said.

He has good reason to be. After suffering a few tough losses on Thursday, the Warriors bounced back. They advanced four - Mat Bywater (140 pounds), Jon Hasebi (160), Jason McLane (189) and nationally ranked Justin Ruiz (189) - to the balanced 5A finals.

Taylorsville also has seven wrestlers kicking around in the consolation brackets, where some valuable points can be picked up.

"This thing isn't over by any stretch," Campbell said, "but it's basically a two-dog race."

Bywater's victory was especially sweet for the Warriors. He pinned West Jordan's Tom Garcia in 1:23 after having lost to the Jaguar wrestler twice this season.

"If Bywater doesn't win, it's 13 points right there," Campbell said. "And we definitely didn't expect a pin. This tournament has just clicked for him."

CLASS 4A

Box Elder coach Mike Ripplinger might be one of the few people who actually felt Friday 13th was his lucky day.

Unlike the last two years, when the Bees fell apart in the semis, the Bees seized control of the 4A tournament during Friday's action by taking a 160.5-138 lead over Payson.

The past two years Box Elder had 10 wrestlers in the semifinals but was only able to qualify two finalists each time. Though he had fewer wrestlers in the semis on Friday, Ripplinger was ecstatic as all but one moved on to the champioships.

"This year maybe we turned the tide," Ripplinger said. "To win five of six is unbelievable. This is the first year we've had a lead going into the finals. I like that feeling a lot."

Ripplinger's son, sophomore Matt Ripplinger, got the Bees off on the right foot by picking up a surprise third-round pin over Bountiful's Tim Panter in the 103-pound division in the night's opening match.

That helped ease the pain of the semifinal loss by Mike's other son, junior Brandon Ripplinger, against Pleasant Grove's Mark Blain, in 152.

Blain will face Fremont's Chris Caldwell, who advanced to the finals despite wrestling with a broken back.

Caldwell, Region 4's fifth seed, won a 4-1 decision against Lone Peak's Nelson Cluff.

Seven-time defending 4A champion Pleasant Grove and Sky View are tied in third with 115 points.

CLASS 3A

In the three previous years Gregg Stensgard has been the wrestling coach at Uintah, his squads have finished, in order, fourth, third and second.

Natural laws of progression say this should be the year for the Utes to make that last step up to No. 1, and Stensgard has good reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Uintah controls its own destiny in today's finals, having grabbed a 174.5-148.5 lead over five-time defending champ Wasatch.

"I don't want to say we have it; there's a lot of wrestling tomorrow," said Stensgard, whose team has six wrestlers in championship contention and five in consolation, "but they would have to have an exceptional day and we would have to fall apart."

First-year Wasatch coach Wade Discher isn't ready to throw in the towel, even though his Wasps only have four wrestlers left in each of the championship and consolation brackets.

Judd Sweat kept Wasatch in the chase with an upset win over Uintah's Trevor Murray in the semis. Murray led 5-0 but Sweat was able to pin him in the third round.

CLASS 2A

The Millard Eagles are in position to secure a wrestling crown for the first time since 1994. Millard, which is leading Juab 183-140, qualified six wrestlers into the finals and eight into the consolations.

The Wasps still have 13 wrestlers alive, including four in the championships.

Three-time defending champion South Summit is in a distant third after the semis with 129 points.

The Wildcats only have three wrestlers left in the winners' bracket, including defending champ Brent Ure (189).

CLASS 1A

Wayne has a large lead heading into tonight's finals. The Badgers are up 156-112 over defending 1A champ Panguitch. Wayne pretty much wrapped things up on Friday, though, by advancing 10 wrestlers into the championship rounds and four into consolation.

Panguitch has six in the finals.