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High school wrestling: Hardy helps Bees challenge for 4A state title, but Lions hold lead

Payson's Brock Brown, top, takes down Springville's Zac Staheli in 4A semifinal match.
Payson's Brock Brown, top, takes down Springville's Zac Staheli in 4A semifinal match.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OREM — Koleton Hardy learned the value of a point the hard way.

After advancing to the title match in the 135-pound weight class a year ago, the Box Elder wrestler fell to eventual state champion Raider Lofthouse in a 5-3 decision.

Losing by such a close margin haunted Hardy and drove him to put in a ton of extra work in the offseason.

"It just drives you even more to get that state title," the junior said.

Extra work has made all the difference in helping Hardy take one step closer to redemption.

With a 9-0 major decision over Payson freshman Kaelen Loveless in the semifinal round of the 4A wrestling tournament on Thursday, he gets another crack at snaring a state title.

Hardy was not only happy with the victory, but he felt satisfied that he was able to get enough points in the final period to help Box Elder.

"In a match like that, every point you get in the bracket counts," Hardy said. "I could have just held on for a victory, but I wanted to get that major decision for an extra point."

Every little point matters in what has shaped up as a tight race for the 4A team title. Only 13 points separate the Bees from Payson heading into today's championship matches. The Lions are leading the pack with 227.5 points. Box Elder is right on their tails with 214.5 points.

Payson surprised many people a year ago when it used a strong showing in the consolation matches and pins in key championship matches to capture the school's first wrestling title in a decade. The Lions came into the McKay Events Center this week hoping to recapture some of that magic and show people they are no one-year wonder.

Even while facing challengers possessing more depth in various weight classes — like Box Elder and Mountain Crest — Payson is in good shape to defend its title at this point.

"That's what we set our goal for from day one," said Lions senior Colton Cannon. "It didn't matter how many guys we had. We knew we had the caliber of team to do it. We just had to show up."

Cannon, a defending state champion, aided his team by scoring a 9-6 decision over Timpanogos grappler Jacob Smith to advance to the 160-pound final.

Payson also dominated in the lower weights. Leading that group are defending state champs Zac Loveless at 125 and Mitch Brown at 112. Loveless earned a 6-1 decision over Lehi wrestler Dallin Rice to advance, and Brown pinned Bonneville's Casey Stark in 1:38.

Lofthouse (47-1) stayed on track to earn his fourth state title in four years with two pins and a 19-4 technical fall.