WEST VALLEY CITY — Seeing a familiar opponent in his Region 2 title match served as a visual reminder to Cottonwood wrestler Spencer Brown exactly why he had put in so much extra work during practice in recent weeks.
Brown had previously tangled with Skyline grappler Brett Clapier during the semifinals of the Rocky Mountain Rumble earlier this season en route to winning a title in the 140 pound weight class. He had to go to overtime with Clapier — after yielding a one-point lead — before coming away with a victory.
It did not sit well with Brown he could not close out the match fast enough.
"I beat him in overtime and I was really gassed," Brown said. "So, the last couple weeks at practice, I've been working hard on my conditioning. When it came down to the last couple of periods, I was able to get the takedowns and get ahead, instead of gassing and giving up the lead."
His extra conditioning made all the difference. Brown used a strong final period outing to outlast Clapier in a 11-9 decision at Hunter High on Wednesday night. The senior earned his third consecutive region title largely because he was able to score six points in the final period.
Brown credited Clapier with giving him his toughest match in a region title bout so far. He feels confident it can help him generate plenty of momentum as he makes a run toward a state title.
After finishing 3rd in his weight class at last year's 4A meet, Brown hopes he has done enough to get over the hump.
"There's not a lot I can do now," Brown said. "But I've been working hard in practice and I'm just that much better than I was last year. I'm confident I'll be able to win a state championship this year. I won the Rumble and that's basically the best kids in the state — 1A through 5A."
The final day of the Region 2 meet turned into a prime opportunity for several wrestlers to make a statement on where they are at heading into next week's state tournament at Utah Valley University.
Few wrestlers could match the statement Skyline's Garrett Battaglia made in snaring a region title in the 189 pound weight class.
Battaglia won both of his matches leading up to the championship by fall. In his final match, the fans had barely settled into their seats before he dispatched his opponent. Battaglia pinned Derrell Peterson from Hunter in just 13 seconds.
"The more you beat up on the other guy, the less he can beat up on you," Battaglia said. "It's all about being aggressive and staying in good position."
As sweet as a region title feels, it is just a warm-up act to what Battaglia wants to accomplish on the mat this season.
"I've had a good season this year, but next week is when it really matters for me," Battaglia said. "This tournament is more about getting to state. I accomplished that. Hopefully, next week I can wrestle as well as I did here and take state."
Hunter claimed the team title out of Region 2. The Wolverines finished with 372.5 points. Skyline took second with 305 points. Murray placed third with 284.5 points.
Individual winners were divided fairly evenly between Skyline, Hunter, Murray, Cyprus and Cottonwood.
For the Wolverines, Anthony Rojas and Brain Pati both claimed region titles.
Rojas pinned teammate Zach Mitchell to win at 135. Pati scored the lone point of 1-0 decision over Brandon Benson in the final 10 seconds of his title match.
Coby Williams and Chaz Lovato won at 125 and 130 respectively for Cyprus, while Preston Bergstrom claimed victory at 160.
Murray had a good showing in the middle weights with Zach Dalley winning at 145 and Jordan Schroeder winning at 152. Ryan Gordan was the other region titlist for the Spartans, prevailing in the 112 weight class.
In addition to Battaglia, Derek Jessee claimed a title for the Eagles at 119 when he pinned Murray's Billy Nelson. Vincent Fonua was the other winner for Skyline, claiming the title at 215.
Cottonwood had two other individual winners besides Brown. Konisi Hosea won at 171 and Colby Nez claimed the title at 103.
Nez's title came with a special distinction. He won a region title after only taking up wrestling three years ago and – as a member of the Navajo tribe — he was the first Native American wrestler in Utah to claim a region title at the 5A level.
"It felt good," said Nez concerning his 12-6 decision over Murray wrestler Jackson Lightfoot that helped him earn that title. "First time ever winning it — I love it."