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Prep wrestlers ready to hit the mats

Springville team considered early favorite for state

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The local prep wrestling teams are starting to hit the mats again this month across the valley.

Last season saw some strong teams emerge and win region and compete for state championships, and this year could be another one to highlight in Utah Valley.

No one has more room to be excited than Springville coach Justin Judkins.

Last year's 4A coach of the year cruised to a Region 7 championship and saw his team finish third in state. A year later, the Red Devils are considered by many to be the early favorite to take the state championship.

"We have an outstanding team this year," said Judkins. "Our toughest competition in region should be Payson. They have a young team but they should be tough."

Springville has more returning state competitors than any other 4A team, including two-time defending champions Kolby Bradley and Jason Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is considered one of the top lower-weight wrestlers in the country and will be Springville's biggest anchor, most likely wrestling at 125 pounds.

Region 7 could likely be the toughest region in 4A, however, and there is more than one team that would love to upset Springville.

Both Payson and Lehi aren't far behind and are plotting runs at region and hoping for high finishes at state. Provo is probably only the fourth-best team in the region, but is still considered one of the top 10 teams in 4A.

Jace Harmon (130) looks to be Payson's top wrestler. Lehi lost state champion Rodney Sager and may not have a star to replace him, but has a lot of young talent.

David Ojuka (160) finished third in state last season and will probably be Provo's strongest wrestler.

Orem and Timpview are expected to round out Region 7 and could struggle to get points in an unusually strong year.

The big surprise in Region 4 this year is that Pleasant Grove is not the hands-down favorite.

After several years trailing the Vikings, Lone Peak looks poised to step in and take the region trophy away in 2006-2007.

Taylor Van Leeuwen (171) and Blake Mangum (125) are the stars for the Knights. As a sophomore, Mangum finished fourth in his class last year. Van Leeuwen finished sixth, and both are region favorites and should compete solidly at state.

Pleasant Grove lost a lot of firepower in its graduating class last year and doesn't have the big-name stars it has enjoyed recently.

It will be a challenge for the Vikings to match the fifth-place finish they had at state a year ago.

Neither Lone Peak or Pleasant Grove are expected to have the depth to compete for a state championship, but the Knights should be a top-five team.

Spanish Fork and Mountain View should be the next-best teams in the region. The Bruins, in particular, enjoyed a good run with a lot of young talent last season. Corbin Frost was solid in the 152-pound class last season and is Mountain View's top returner.

Timpanogos and American Fork should be the last two teams in Region 4.