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High school wrestling: 4A tournament: Lofthouse caps high school career with fourth state title

Payson High's Zac Loveless (top) wins the 125-pound bout over Box Elder's Zach Harris. at the 4A High School State Wrestling Championship at UVU in Orem.
Payson High's Zac Loveless (top) wins the 125-pound bout over Box Elder's Zach Harris. at the 4A High School State Wrestling Championship at UVU in Orem.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

OREM — Claiming four state championships over a four-year span is quickly becoming a Lofthouse family tradition.

Raider Lofthouse became the latest one from that wrestling clan to achieve such a feat. The Mountain Crest senior clinched his fourth consecutive state title with a 13-5 major decision over Tooele junior Thomas Manning at the 4A state wrestling meet on Friday night.

His brother Ethen also won state titles all four years he wrestled at Mountain Crest before siging with the two-time defending NCAA champion Iowa Hawkeyes.

A sizeable contingent of family and friends unleashed chants of "four-timer" once the clock finally showed zero. For Lofthouse, being crowned a state champion yet again represented everything he had worked for during his high school career. It was the ultimate payoff for all the extra hours he put in on the mat just to get himself to wrestle at this level.

"This has been my lifetime dream, so I made sure I could accomplish it," Lofthouse said. "I've been staying after practice. It's helped me a lot."

Lofthouse did not meet much resistance in meeting his lifelong goal. He finished the season with a 48-1 record and scored a pin, technical fall or major decision in all four of his matches at the McKay Events Center.

Even when opponents put up a good fight – like Manning did in the title match – Lofthouse found a way to wear them down with his speed and strength.

Perhaps that's because his goal of being a four-time winner received an extra dose of motivation heading into this season after seeing his brother Ethen get the state title sweep a year earlier.

"It's always good to follow after your family and do what they've done," Lofthouse said.

In the chase to claim a team title, all of the glory belonged to Payson for a second year in a row.

This time, however, the Lions needed no push in the consolation round to set the stage for a dramatic rally through the championship matches. With a 15-point lead over Mountain Crest, Payson already had control going into the final matches for each weight class.

The Lions ultimately scored 258.5 points to finish as back-to-back 4A champions. Box Elder edged out the Mustangs for second place by a point. The Bees tallied 226.5 points, while Mountain Crest finished with 225.5.

Five wrestlers claimed individual titles for Payson.

Mitch Brown beat Mountain Crest's Zabinadi Smethhurst in a 17-4 major decision at 112. Zac Loveless earned a 12-2 major decision over Box Elder's Zach Harris at 125. Brock Brown beat Mustangs' grappler Cody Bunderson in a 14-7 decision at 130. Colton Cannon earned a 10-2 major decision over Mountain Crest's Spencer Schawab at 160. Brady Loveless capped things off with a 5-2 decision over Pine View's Devon Montgomery to win at 171.

The Lions enjoyed great satisfaction in showing they were no one-year wonder.

"That's what we've been working for all year," Zac Loveless said. "Two years in a row. We wanted to have that two-peat."

Box Elder senior Daniel Crook and Uintah senior Colby Christiansen both repeated as state title winners in their respective weight classes. Crook prevailed at 285 with a 10-3 decision against Snow Canyon's Chad Gough. Christiansen won at 119 with his 10-1 major decision over Payson freshman Jed Mellen.

For Christiansen, who won his previous two state titles in 3A competition, winning on the 4A level too offered some relief.

"I wanted it more than anything," said the Utes senior, who has been offered a scholarship by Minnesota. "I would have done anything to get it."

Plenty of first-time state title winners came out of the 4A ranks this season. One of the most dominant title-bout efforts came from Springville wrestler Jeff Gueck. He needed only 50 seconds to pin Tooele senior Joel Spendlove for the 215 championship.

Lofthouse was named outstanding wrestler for the upper weights and Koleton Hardy earned the same honor for the lower weights. Chris Loveless was named the 4A coach of the year.