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High school wrestling: Pleasant Grove cruises to Region 4 title

SANDY — The Region 4 wrestling tournament showed that while there is some balance at the top, Pleasant Grove certainly has more overall team depth than the rest of the competition.

The Vikings ran away with the team title at 409.5 points compared to second-place Alta at 340.5. Jordan was third at 229 followed by Brighton (195.5), Lone Peak (168.5), American Fork (166.5) and Hillcrest (41.5). Pleasant Grove also qualified 17 wrestlers for next week's state tournament by having them finish in the top-4 of their respective weight classes.

"Outstanding," was how Pleasant Grove coach Brock Moore said his team wrestled. "I thought that in almost every case our guys wrestled to their ability. We set some pretty good goals coming in, and overall, I thought we met each one of them. Our guys were looking to get a fall in almost every match, and I thought they wrestled hard and if they weren't able to get the fall, then they came pretty close."

The Vikings rode the momentum of some early-round success to claim the victory in the first region tournament since realignment took effect. While they didn't have any more individual champions than the other schools — Alta held that distinction with four, Lone Peak had three, American Fork, Pleasant Grove and Jordan had two and Brighton had one — they placed in the top four in every weight class but 145 pounds, 189 and 285, and they had multiple placers in 103, 119, 125, 152, 160 and 215. They qualified the 17 wrestlers while Alta had 12, American Fork eight, Lone Peak, Brighton and Jordan had six, and Hillcrest had two.

"I think that we just work harder," said 152-pound champion Quinn Nielson. "Every day we work as hard as we possibly can and I think it is paying off."

Coming into the finals, PG had certainly clinched the title, but the host Hawks narrowed the gap as Carson Kuhn (119), Mark Michels (125), Eric Michels (140) and Lundon Smith (285) all won their championship matches.

"I thought we wrestled pretty well," said Mark Michels. "It is a great feeling to end the region season with a title. It isn't the ultimate goal, but it feels good knowing you have accomplished something like this."

American Fork's Scott Newman echoed the sentiments of Michels.

"This is probably the best feeling I've ever had in wrestling," he said after claiming the 135-pound crown with a decision over Brighton's Nick Runyun. "He beat me earlier in the season in OT when he got a point because I grabbed his headgear, so it feels really good to come back and beat him in the finals."

Lone Peak's Cory Hancock felt the same elation after claiming the 130-pound title with a 6-4 decision over Nate Lamb of Alta following a takedown with under 10 seconds remaining.

"I just told myself to keep pushing, to never stop or I was going to lose," Hancock said. "By the end there, I was so tired, but I think that my mental toughness really pushed me through."

While each of the championship matches was special to the participants, the one that got the biggest reaction came in the 215-pound classification as Jordan's Duke Babka pinned Pleasant Grove's Dustin Dennison in the final 30 seconds after trailing 5-2.

"He's the toughest kid I've ever wrestled," said the 44-3 Babka of Dennison, who he has now beaten three times this season. "He is just so tough in the neutral position. I have a lot I need to work on before next week, but I hop I see him again. He is a great wrestler."

With the Region 4 meet completed, the real work begins. The wrestlers know where they will be seeded and what they need to do to be successful next week at the state tournament at Utah Valley University.

"We will set some new goals and then get back to work," said Moore. "Our guys will get back to practice next week, and we will evaluate what needs to get done."

The other individual winners at the meet included: Brighton's Rami Haddadin (103), Pleasant Grove's Korbin Levin (112), Lone Peak's Bryce Boyer (145), Jordan's Dylan Howell (160), American Fork's Dallin Horan (171) and Lone Peaks Tanner Jones (189).