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High school wrestling: Payson tops Uintah in the 4A Southern Division meet

VERNAL — In the 4A Southern Division tournament Payson dominated the scoreboards with a team score of 324.5.

Uintah finished second with a score of 255.5, followed by Maple Mountain, who rounded out the top three with 215.

"This is a tough sectional. There are some good schools here. I feel really good about our win today," said Payson head coach Chris Loveless. "We had 11 wrestlers in the finals in the region, and we ended up putting eight in the finals here, and so we've got quite a few kids that have come through all year and done a really good job for us."

Payson ended the day with six first place finishes, including Colton Ford (152), who won in a grueling match with Maple Mountain's Brennen Hyatt. "Winning that match ... that was a big match for us to win," sad Loveless.

Sixteen Payson wrestlers qualified for a state tournament that Loveless predicts will be "tough."

"I don't think we're gonna qualify quite as many people as some other schools, and so our kids are gonna to have to step up and wrestle well," he said. "We expect to do well, but it's not gonna be easy."

Uintah qualified 18 wrestlers for state during the tournament, including two first place finishers.

Uintah head coach Gregg Stensgard said he's happy with his team's performance, putting six wrestlers in the finals, and sending at least one wrestler to the state tournament in each of the 14 weight classes — something Stensgard says he's never experienced before.

"That says a lot about the way we work and how hard we work. We outconditioned everybody. That's one of the trademarks of our team. We don't know how to quit," said Stensgard.

Controversy took a potential third first-place finish from Uintah near the end of the 140-pound match between Uintah's Taylor Merkley and Provo's Brian Shepherd, when referee's called two points and a win for the Utes' wrestle, then changed the call minutes later, sending the match into overtime.

The hometown crowd roared their disapproval of what an obviously angry coach Stensgard called "one of the worst calls I've ever seen."

Shepherd quickly earned two points for the win in overtime.

Fifteen teams competed in the division tournament, with seven teams earning at least one first place medal.

First place finishes go to Payson's Mitch Brown (112), Zac Loveless (125), Brock Brown (130, Colton Ford (152), Colton Cannon (160), and Brady Loveless (171); Uintah's Colby Christiansen (119), and Damon Mele (135); Maple Mountain's Britain Carter (103); Provo's Brian Shepherd (140); Spanish Fork's Kaleb Ashworth (145); Lehi's Taylor Savio (189), and Bubba Demke (215); and Snow Canyon's Chad Gough (285).

The Utah State Wrestling Tournament will be at Utah Valley University on Feb. 11.