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4A wrestling primer: What to look for in the state tourney Wednesday and Thursday

SHARE 4A wrestling primer: What to look for in the state tourney Wednesday and Thursday

Wasatch looks strong to win its third straight 4A title, setting the bar high with a dominant state title in the dual meet format and by crowning eight individual champions at the divisional tournament last week.

Even the loss of returning state champion Trevor Cluff (120 pounds) didn’t deter the Wasps as the swept past the Utes, who were leading going into the final matches of the placement rounds only to see their lead erased as Wasatch won those eight titles while the Utes were just 1-6 in their championship final bouts.

Wasatch has returning state champions Zak Kohler (132 pounds), Corbin Smith (145), Jakob Discher (160) and Ritchie Heywood (182). Steven Ballif (138) and DJ Cohen (220) won silver medals last year. The Wasps are bolstered by freshmen sensations Sammy Heywood (120) and Stockton O’Brien (126). O’Brien is touted as the top freshman wrestler in the state regardless of classification. Heywood was the back-up to Cluff at 120 pounds and also to O’Brien but has seen plenty of varsity experience this year and won the Divisional A tournament last week.

Payson looks to be the chief challenger to the Wasps and qualified 23 wrestlers to the state tournament while the Wasps will take 18 to the big tournament. The Lion faithful will be hopeful that this numerical advantage can be parlayed into an upset this Thursday.

Wasatch has an impressive list of stars, but Payson is not without its big guns. First cousins Jed and Chayce Loveless will be the favorites to win titles at 145 and 195 pounds respectively. The Lions are also bolstered by Jacob Etheridge (106) and Wyatt Monroe (170) who won titles at the divisional tournament. Additional claw comes from brothers Wyatt and Austin Hone (113 and 132 respectively), Brock Loveless (126) and Tyler Manookin (152), who all placed second at the divisional tournament.

Uintah qualified 22 wrestlers, and this depth staked Uintah to a lead over Wasatch in the Division A tournament until the Wasps stormed back in the medal round. Gavin Ayotte (106) was the Utes’ only champ at division, however. Tucker Tomlinson (160) is a returning state champion for the Utes, and Alex Shope (220) will be a serious contender for a state title as well.

Besides Payson, two Utah County programs look to make noise.

Maple Mountain beat Uintah by criteria (after the two teams finished tied at 39) for third place at the state dual tournament, but lack of numbers hindered the Golden Eagles at the divisional tournament. Quenton Mortimer (113), Brandyn Van Tassell (170) and Parker Kay (195) all nailed down individual titles for Maple Mountain and hope to see the top of the podium this week.

Meanwhile, Salem Hills had a very strong showing last week, placing second to Payson in the Division B tourney. The Skyhawks crowned two divisional champions in Noah Patterson (126) and Kyle Larsen (160). Chyler Zeeman (138), Dylan Carter (145) and Jaxon Van Tassell (170) were all divisional runners-up, and all total, Salem Hills qualified 17 wrestlers for the big tournament.

Box Elder, from Region 5, will be a major player in the tournament with the likes of undefeated, returning two-time state champion Brock Hardy (152) and fellow divisional champion Garrett Ricks (113). Austin Bingham (120) is a serious contender for a state title as is Riley Taylor (285), as the Bee big man took home silver at the divisional and a gold medal at The Rumble in January.

Olympus has two serious title contenders in Riley Noble (132) and Isaac Wilcox (145). The latter is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class, and both Wilcox and Noble won divisional titles last week.

Corner Canyon had two divisional champions as Kade Carlson (220) and Shaun Stockwell (285) won titles. Carlson is just a freshman, and Stockwell and Box Elder’s Hardy are the only two remaining undefeated wrestlers inside the state.

Other serious state title contenders include Kearns’ Brandon Meikel (120), Mountain View’s Gabe Terry (126), Woods Cross’ Carson Halls (132) and Ben Harden (138), Orem’s Cooper Legas (185), Highland’s Lilo Clark (195) and Timpview’s Rusty Lamb (285). Meikel and Legas won Division B titles while Lamb won in Division A. Meikel was a state champion in 2015 and Terry placed second in state last year for the Bruins. The Rams’ Clark boasts a 44-3 overall record and is the rare Utah wrestler to go the distance with Payson’s Chayce Loveless. Halls placed second in state last year for the Wildcats while Harden was third.

Preece’s team predictions:

4A team Predictions: 1. Wasatch, 2. Payson, 3. Uintah, 4. Box Elder, 5. Maple Mountain, 6. Salem Hills, 7. Orem, 8. Mountain View, 9. Corner Canyon, 10. Woods Cross.

Finalist predictions:

106 — Gavin Ayotte (Uintah) vs. Mitchell Slack (Wasatch)

Notes: Ayotte is the strong favorite, but sometimes the lightest weight provides the most upsets because it is a field with younger wrestlers typically that give uneven performances. Keep an eye on Woods Cross’ Thomas Gordy and Payson’s Jacob Etheridge.

113 — Quenton Mortimer (Maple Mountain) vs. Garrett Ricks (Box Elder)

Notes: Ricks would be the slight favorite to win this weight class as the Bee grappler won The Rumble and has looked strong all year. Cub Deets (Uintah) shows sparks of greatness and shouldn’t be overlooked, and freshman Wyatt Hone of Payson has come on strong and took Ricks to overtime at the divisional.

120 — Sammy Heywood (Wasatch) vs. Brandon Meikel (Kearns)

Notes: Heywood is a freshman sensation while Meikel, a senior, was a state champion two years ago and third last year. Heywood’s teammate Trevor Cluff was the favorite to win this weight class, but an injury ended his season. Other wrestlers to watch include Meikel’s Cougar teammate Harold Lemus and Box Elder’s Austin Bingham.

126 — Stockton O’Brien (Wasatch) vs. Gabe Terry (Mountain View)

Notes: O’Brien has clearly established himself as the favorite and the state’s top freshman wrestler. He won The Rumble, defeating three-time state champion Jaxon Cole of North Summit in the final. Terry was upset in the quarterfinals of Division A, so the side of the bracket opposite of O’Brien is wide open. Noah Patterson (Salem Hills) and Uintah’s Bridger Bennion look to get through to the finals.

132 — Zak Kohler (Wasatch) vs. Carson Halls (Woods Cross)

Notes: Kohler is a returning state champion who was dubbed the top freshman last season by USA Wrestling Utah. Halls was upset at his divisional but placed second in state last year. Riley Noble had a strong tournament last week, winning his divisional, and will be on the opposite side of Kohler but has to get through Uintah’s August Harrison, another noteworthy freshman grappler, or Halls.

138 — Steven Ballif (Wasatch) vs. Isaac Wilcox (Olympus)

Notes: This is a very deep weight class that features several returning state placers. Besides Ballif and Wilcox, there is Ben Harden (Woods Cross), who placed second to Ballif and won at the All-Star Dual. Provo’s Schafer Heiner took fourth two years ago. But a couple of other wrestlers to eyeball are Orem’s Hank Weiss, who has an exciting style of wrestling that could pull off the upset, and sophomore Chyler Zeeman of Salem Hills.

145 — Corbin Smith (Wasatch) vs. Jed Loveless (Payson)

Notes: Smith and Loveless head this class, and a championship final between these two wrestlers could be an epic clash. Smith is a returning state champion from 2016 while Loveless is a three-time state finalist and state champ in 2015. Maple Mountain’s Ryan Hansen is a very dangerous wrestler who placed second in his division to Smith but will have to get past Loveless to reach the final.

152 — Tyler Manookin (Payson) vs. Brock Hardy (Box Elder)

Notes: Hardy is an undefeated two-time state champion and perhaps the nation’s best wrestler at this weight class. Manookin is the rare Utah wrestler who has made the Bee wrestler go six minutes. Jeff Eidem, a sophomore from Timpanogos, won the division opposite of Hardy and Manookin and could meet the Lion senior in the semifinals.

160 — Jakob Discher (Wasatch) vs. Tucker Tomlinson (Uintah)

Notes: Both Discher and Tomlinson (Uintah) are returning state champions. Discher won the 152-pound class last year while Tomlinson is the returning champ in this weight class. Discher won the Division A final between the two handily. Division B winner Kyle Larsen is also very capable and will be on the same side of the bracket as Tomlinson. The Skyhawk and Ute wrestlers have had several epic battles over the years. Larsen is also a state finalist from 2014 and placed third in state last year after a loss to Tomlinson in last year’s semifinals. Tristan Hellstrom (Maple Mountain), who placed second in The Rumble, will be on the same side of the bracket as Tomlinson and Larsen, and definitely is a contender.

170 — Brandyn Van Tassell (Maple Mountain) vs. Wyatt Monroe (Payson)

Notes: This weight class is loaded and perhaps the one most up for grabs. Monroe has established himself as the favorite, but two fellow Region 8 rivals want to upset the apple cart. Monroe’s chief rivals are actually cousins who wrestle for different schools. Maple Mountain’s Brandyn Van Tassell won the Division A tournament and is a returning state runner-up. Jaxon Van Tassell (Salem Hills) is a three-time state finalist who lost to Monroe in the Division B championship, putting him on the same side of the bracket as his cousin.

182 — Ritchie Heywood (Wasatch) vs. Cooper Legas (Orem)

Notes: Heywood is a returning state champion and finalist from two years ago when he lost to his older brother Spencer in the state finals. Legas is a sophomore and arguably the best athlete who wrestles in the state. Legas didn’t place last year but has turned heads with a great season, posting a current record of 31-4. Heywood’s teammate Seth Gardner was the second-place wrestler from Division A and could meet Legas in the semifinal and would love to make it a Wasp vs. Wasp final.

195 — Lilo Clark (Highland) vs. Chayce Loveless (Payson)

Notes: Loveless is the prohibitive favorite as he is a returning state champion and three-time state placer. Clark placed second to Loveless in the divisional tournament and he could be strongly tested by Maple Mountain’s Parker Kay, the Division A champion, who is finding his form after missing some action this season due to injury.

220 — DJ Cohen (Wasatch) vs. Alex Shope (Uintah)

Notes: Both the favorites in this class will be considerably underweight as both wrestled mostly at 195 pounds. Cohen placed second in state last year and Shope is a returning state placer. Both could be challenged by the likes of Kade Carlson, just a freshman, but the Corner Canyon Charger turned heads by winning the Division B title over Box Elder’s Ryan Gunn, a capable wrestler who represented the 4A team in the all-star dual.

285 — Riley Taylor (Box Elder) vs. Shaun Stockwell (Corner Canyon)

Stockwell is one of two undefeated wrestlers still left in Utah, with Box Elder’s Hardy being the other. In fact, few wrestlers have gone the distance with this Charger superstar. But one wrestler has, and that’s Taylor, a returning state placer with experience. He gave Stockwell a tough match in the Division B final last week. Timpview’s Rusty Lamb won Division A and could meet Taylor in the semifinals.

Brian Preece is a freelance sportswriter. He was the head wrestling coach at Provo High School from 1994-2006, and in 2006 was named Utah Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.