OREM — There is a certain amount of pressure that goes with being a part of Payson wrestling. There are regular expectations of greatness, expectations of individual state titles won, team titles claimed, and even the hope of dynasties created.
It is a unique pressure that each and every Lions wrestler is aware of.
“There is a certain pressure when you come from a community like Payson,” Lions head coach Jeb Clark said.
Whether or not that pressure overwhelmed or undid the team in recent years is certainly up for debate, but the fact remains that heading into the 2019 4A state wrestling tournament, Payson hadn’t won a state title since 2015.
That drought is over.
This team has been special like this all year. They earned this. – Payson coach Jeb Clark
Led by individual state title winner Tyson Carter, as well as a host of second-place finishers and a quartet of additional placers, Payson defeated all comers at the state tournament, held at Utah Valley University’s UCCU Center.
The Lions finished with 238.5 points, 16 better than second place Uintah. Bear River finished third, with 153 points, while Canyon View (143) and Mountain Crest (118.5) rounded out the top five.
“This team has been special like this all year. They earned this,” said Clark. “They are a hard-working bunch and they love each other. Sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get (back on top), but it has been awesome, enjoyable and I think they have enjoyed it. I think that was the key, getting to the point where they enjoyed it and didn’t give in to the pressure.”
There was considerable pressure put on the Lions throughout the tournament, namely by the Utes. Uintah and Payson were neck and neck after Day 1 and throughout Day 2 that remained the case.
The Utes actually finished with more individual champions than the Lions, including Brady Merkley, three-time state champion Gavin Ayotte and Bridger Bennion.
Uintah had a total of 11 wrestlers finish in the top six in their respective weight classes, a total which in almost any other year would have given the Utes the title.
Payson was not to be denied, however, no one more on the team than Carter.
An unsung wrestler heading into the season, Carter exceeded all expectations.
“He has been beating kids that people didn’t think he could beat all year,” Clark said. “He kind of came out of nowhere as a senior. He wrestled all offseason and it worked out for him.”
In his final match, against Canyon View’s Braydon Cavalieri, Carter exceeded expectations again.
Each and every Payson finalist before him, four to be exact, had come up short in their attempts at an individual title, which deflated both the team and its supporters.
Momentum-less and alone, Carter found a way to win.
“Every single one of those kids (who lost) is a close friend,” he said. “Usually I get a lot of momentum from those guys, all my buddies wrestling before me. Tonight, it was my time to start it and go out and wrestle the way I know how.
“I worked every day since the last state tournament for this. To be rewarded, finally, to get my hand raised, it felt so good. I have had dreams about that.”
One of the wrestlers who prevented a Payson individual title, by All-Star Cole Jensen no less, was Tooele’s Joseph Mecham.
Just like Carter, the dream of a state title motivated him throughout the long campaign, though revenge played a factor as well.
“(Jensen) has been ranked over me all year and it feels good to prove everyone wrong,” Mecham said. “It feels amazing. I lost to him by just one point the last time (we met). I came out tonight and I knew I was going to win.”
Additional individual state title winners include, among others, Scott Robertson (Bear River), Gabe Sanders (Mountain Crest), Ryker Boyce (Desert Hills), Cooper Legas (Orem) and Brady Lowry (Canyon View). Lowry had the most impressive showing of the night, pinning Cedar City’s Michael Anker in a minute and 31 seconds.
Ultimately, the night was about the Lions, though.
“It is nice to see them beat the pressure and get to the top of the mountain again,” Clark said. “They are a good bunch of boys, some of the best I have had.”
At UCCU Center
- Payson, 238.5; 2. Uintah, 222.5; 3. Bear River, 153; 4. Canyon View, 143; 5. Mountain Crest 118.5; 6. Salem Hills, 99; 7. Hurricane, 91; 8. Desert Hills, 89.5; 9. Cedar City, 88; 10. Mountain View, 79.5
106 — Championship: Brady Merkley, Uintah def. Trenton Ward, Bear River, Dec 9-3; 3. Raiden Harrison, Uintah; 4. Austyn Ennis, Cedar City; 5 River Smith, Bear River; 6. Isaac Blair, Hurricane.
113 — Championship: Joseph Mecham, Tooele def. Cole Jensen, Payson, Dec 9-6; 3. Lee Terrell, Mountain Crest; 4. Anthony Lopez, Mountain Crest; 5. Brody Rich, Uintah; 6. Cole Huber, Uintah.
120 — Championship: Scott Robertson, Bear River def. Deegan Palmer, Payson, TF-1.5 5:00 (17-2); 3. Layne Shepherd, Spanish Fork; 4. Jared Armstrong, Hurricane; 5. Matthew Sedillo, Juan Diego; 6. Dylian Moore, Stansbury.
126 — Championship: Gabe Sanders, Mountain Crest def. Wyatt Hone, Payson, Dec 4-1; 3. Randon Deets, Uintah; 4. Mason Morris, Green Canyon; 5. Tristyn Dennett, Hurricane; 6. Jordan Hammond, Stansbury.
132 — Championship: Gavin Ayotte, Uintah def. Caleb Armstrong, Hurricane, Dec 4-2; 3. Colter Ricks, Ridgeline; 4. Jorge Sanchez, Payson; 5. Devin Robins, Orem; 6. Cole Lake, Canyon View.
138 — Championship: Ryker Boyce, Desert Hills def. Chance Parker, Ridgeline, Dec 9-5; 3. Joshua Armstrong, Hurricane; 4. August Harrison, Uintah; 5. Dylan Dick, Uintah; 6. Weston Hirschi, Bear River.
145 — Championship: Bridger Bennion, Uintah def. Ryan Larsen, Salem Hills, Dec 3-0; 3. Brock Loveless, Payson; 4. Clayton Warr, Hurricane; 5. Seth Burr, Mountain View; 6. Quade Jones, Desert Hills.
152 — Championship: Brady Lowry, Canyon View def. Michael Anker, Cedar City, Fall 1:31; 3. Tyler Knapp, Payson; 4. Jonathan Hyatt, Mountain View; 5. Matt Brooks, Dixie; 6. Payton Jones, Green Canyon.
160 — Championship: Chyler Zeeman, Salem Hills def. Tucker Naccarato, Payson, Dec 5-4; 3. Terrell Buttars, Sky View; 4. Ryan Ball, Canyon View; 5. Maverik Skinner, Bear River; 6. Dylan Swift, Uintah.
170 — Championship: Tyson Carter, Payson def. Braydon Cavalieri, Canyon View, Dec 7-6; 3. Antony Torres, Sky View; 4. Heston Wood, Salem Hills; 5. Braxton Monroe, Payson; 6. Eric Wenger, Ridgeline.
182 — Championship: Merrell Morley, Salem Hills def. Gavin Carter, Canyon View, MD 13-5; 3. Gage Hall, Desert Hills; 4. Cade Hatch, Uintah; 5. Carson Hansen, Snow Canyon; 6. Radi Stafford, Mountain View.
195 — Championship: Cooper Legas, Orem def. Ben Boyack, Spanish Fork, Dec 10-4; 3. Hunter Schroeder, Mountain Crest; 4. Connor Bills, Bear River; 5. Payton Murray, Cedar City; 6. Elijah Stafford, Mountain View.
220 — Championship: Nathan Ellis, Cedar City def. McCoy Cook, Payson, Dec 6-2; 3. Hunter Larsen, Sky View; 4. Tuiits Kanosh, Snow Canyon; 5. Colter Freeze, Bear River; 6. Sam McMurray, Mountain Crest.
285 — Championship: David Herring, Mountain View def. Sam Dawe, Spanish Fork, TB-1 3-1; 3. Enoka Fuailetolo, Desert Hills; 4. Riley Robertson, Canyon View; 5. Kioni Alvarez, Cedar City; 6. Logan Fraser, Bear River.