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High school wrestling: Grapplers vie for titles this week

Note: For a complete recap of all the region wrestling tournaments the past two weeks, visit the Deseret News' new Wrestling Page.

Note: To view brackets, schedule and Deseret News Academic All-State teams, view the Official UHSAA state tournament program.

OREM — Thousands of individual high school wrestling matches have taken place over the course of the last few months, culminating in one desired destination.

For many athletes, the dream of being on the sport's biggest stage has arrived, the wait is finally over.

The state championship tournaments at Utah Valley University will pull out the mats on Wednesday and Thursday for the 5A and 4A classifications, followed by 3A, 2A and 1A over the weekend.

Here's a look at each classification to ease the anticipation for one more day:

Class 5A

In its Region 4 championship victory, defending state champion Pleasant Grove strung together a near-perfect performance.

The Vikings, in search of their 14th state title in school history, qualified 25 wrestlers in the 14 weight divisions in their impressive 229-point region win. Behind two-time state champion Korbin Levin's (120 pounds) 48-0 record, the Vikings are the predominant favorite once again this season.

Alta coach Barry Harrington, whose team captured the Region 3 championship in similar fashion, didn't hesitate mentioning that Pleasant Grove was still the top dog.

However, Alta will be considered a legitimate contender to dethrone the Vikings along with Region 1 champion Fremont and Region 2 champ Viewmont.

"I think we can surprise some people. I think we're going to be in it to win it and we can shock some upper teams," said Silver Wolves coach Cody Storey after Fremont seized its first region championship in school history. "I felt that we've progressively gotten better to the point that we can compete with the best of them."

Other returning state champs are Layton's Ken Astle (125 pounds), Brighton's Rami Haddadin (112) and Alta's Matt Findlay (103).

Class 4A

Yet again, the defending state champions are the front-runners for the 4A crown. Box Elder, which dominated last year's competition, is back on top after winning another region championship last week, when the Bees qualified 17 wrestlers for the state meet.

Clearfield captured its first region title in 17 years, but Maple Mountain looks to be the main threat to ending the Bees' run of 4A supremacy. The Golden Eagles flew past the Region 8 field with 524.5 total points and will send 25 wrestlers to the state championships.

"We beat them them earlier this year in a dual. I feel like our JV is really, really tough, and that's where it's going to be won or lost. Can our guys that took third or fourth at this tournament go to state and win matches and earn a place," said Maple Mountain coach Justin Judkins.

An interesting side story is Olympus' Brandon McBride in the 170-pound weight class.

The undefeated senior's miraculous wrestling career is coming to a close. He's looking to become a four-time state champion after winning a title his freshman season in Idaho, his sophomore year in Illinois and as a junior with the Titans.

Returning state champs in 4A are: Olympus' Brandon McBride (171), Box Elder's Rasten Yeates (135), Maple Mountain's Grant LaMont (130), Maple Mountain's Britain Carter (112) and Maple Mountain's Brandon George (103).

Class 3A

The Tortoise and the Hare is a well-known childhood coming-of-age story. The quick and speedy hare challenges the slow-paced tortoise to a race but eventually loses after foolishly taking a nap.

Well, in the case of 3A competition, the Delta Rabbits aren't resting after three consecutive titles and are considered the undeniable favorites this year again.

"I don't know if we feel the stress of being the target. I think the target that we feel is the one that we put on our own back," said Josh Wright after Delta clinched another region championship. "I know that teams are gunning for us because we are the defending state champs, but nothing is given to a team a year later. You've got to start over."

The Rabbits qualified 20 wrestlers for state competition, but only managed two individual region champions: Dane Nielson (160) and Ryan Petersen (182).

"It would have been nice to have a couple more individual champions," Wright said. "Of course, you'd like to have some more individual region champions, but I think in the end the goal is to become state champions as a team."

Payson, Uintah and Wasatch each had four individual champions in region meets. Both the Lions and Utes had 17 wrestlers qualify, whereas the Wasps will send 15 to state.

Nonetheless, Wright is striving to preach the same method of attack, despite the added competition.

"We always continue to stress the same thing," he said. "When you set a goal, you can't spend a lot of time looking side-to-side. The fastest way to go north is to head north. I think we got to focus on (ourselves)."

Returning state champs in 3A are: Hurricane's Brian Scott (215), Hurricane's Zach Prince (152), Wasatch's Morgan Sweat (125), Carbon's Bryce Jackman (119) and Cedar's Dusty Hone (103).

Class 2A

The 2A classification had a different taste in last year's state tournament. South Summit ended Millard's reign of five straight state titles, but this year it's back to much of the same.

The Eagles are the favorite to return as champs after a one-year hiatus, with North Sevier being their main threat.

"We're going to make adjustments and try and improve going into this week," said Millard coach Blake Turner. "We know that North Sevier is a really strong program. We're going to do everything we can and we know that we have full team effort."

Millard qualified 26 wrestlers, but because of the different scoring methods in the 2A classification, only the top competitors in each weight class are able to collect points for team purposes. Therefore, only 14 wrestlers are eligible.

"Numbers aren't as key," said Turner. "We just hope we have a JV guy that could maybe bump off a varsity guy or not allow pin points to help us that way."

Returning state champs in 2A are Kanab's Josh Urianza (160), South Summit's Jeff McCormick (140), Millard's Brenden Turner (112) and Millard's Kyle Robison (103).

Class 1A

Keeping up with the pattern of the higher classifications, Altamont is the unanimous favorite to retain its title after winning the two previous state championships.

The Longhorns are led by Brady Farnsworth (106), Blake Thompson (138), Rylee Foy (160), Kyle Foy (170), Denver Knight (182) and Cassidy Smith (285).

Duchesne, Monticello and Panguitch are the best bets to upend the Altamont dynasty.

Returning state champs in 1A are: Duchesne's Max Lewis (189), Altamont's Kyle Foy (171), Duchesne's Ethan May (145), Duchesne's Tyler Harper (130), Monticello's Brian Robinson (119), Panguitch's Cade Coles (112) and Panguitch's Jory Owens (103).

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com