OREM — Box Elder coach Mike Ripplinger is still sweating, but he's smiling a little bit more.

Box Elder opened up a 9.5 lead over Mountain Crest in the 4A tournament at UVSC Thursday after an impressive semifinal performance.

"It's nice to be ahead finally," said Ripplinger. "We've been trailing Mountain Crest the entire tournament."

Box Elder has 168 points compared to 158.5 for Mountain Crest. Spanish Fork, Pleasant Grove and Olympus round out the top five.

Both Box Elder and Mountain Crest advanced five of its eight wrestlers into Friday night's finals, but four of the Bees' victories involved pins, earning them those coveted bonus points.

Those weren't that important last year for Box Elder, which ran away with the title, but in the Bees' quest for a three-peat this year, every point is proving vital.

"It's going to be a great tournament," said Ripplinger. "It's going to come down to the finals."

Box Elder's Travis Evans, Joe Shannon, Jeff Newby, Bryn Winward and Josh Anderson all advanced to the championship matches, with Justin White, Luke Lofthouse, Jon Schroeder, Nate Jackson and Emosi Fiefia all advancing for the Mustangs.

The only weight in which wrestlers from each school will go head to head is at 140, where Newby and White will square off. Newby, the Region 4 champ, defeated teammate Jason Holland to advance to the finals.

Newby, just a junior, is pursuing his third straight title.

In the semifinals, the two schools wrestled each other in three weights, with Mountain Crest prevailing in two.

Even though Spanish Fork isn't involved in the exciting team chase, coach Layne Shepherd will still be a busy man with five wrestlers competing in Friday's finals. Kenyan Christen, T.J. Brindley, Jeb Clark, Cole Ratcliffe and Caleb Love will all wrestle in the finals for the Dons.

Aside for Newby's three-peat quest, Pleasant Grove's Kip Spencer, wrestling at 130 pounds, and Mountain Crest's Schroeder and Emosi are seeking a repeat individual title.

Click here to view the individual and team wrestling results


E-MAIL: jedward@desnews.com