The cheers within the UCCU Center were thunderous throughout Thursday afternoon’s 5A boys wrestling championship, but when Uintah freshman Michael Alexander pinned Payson’s Aaron Garcia 22 seconds into the 113-pound showdown, the noise level may have reached its peak.

The surprisingly quick result was one of many moments that helped Uintah claim its second consecutive state title and the school’s 25th championship overall. The Utes notched a score of 276.5, edging out defending 5A champion Payson (265) and third place Wasatch (184). 

The title was Uintah’s first ever in the 5A classification after the team made the jump up from 4A this year. 

The Utes came into the day leading Payson by 9.5 points, but head coach Phillip Keddy said that Alexander’s result early in the championship round sent a message to all those who were in attendance.

“There was still some question as to whether or not (Payson) could still have a chance in the team race, so he just went out there and basically answered any of those questions all at once and showed that there was no doubt,” Keddy said.

Alexander said he didn’t know what to expect from his first ever state championship match, but he knew he didn’t want to waste any time–an objective he completed very successfully.

Despite being matched up against a defending state champion and senior, the young freshman said that he approached the match like every other match he had this season.

“You’ve got to take every opponent the same,” Alexander said. “Everyone’s going to give you a battle. I wasn’t expecting my semifinal to be as close as it was, but I also wasn’t expecting the final to be as quick as it was, so you can never know 100% what to expect.”

In addition to Alexander, Uintah’s Austin Richens (190) fought through what appeared to be an ankle injury to defeat Maple Mountain’s Andrew Jensen in a grueling 13-7 decision match. 

Woods Cross senior Colton Erickson completed a remarkable undefeated individual season with his title victory in the 144-pound class, though the victory did come at the expense of Uintah’s senior leader Brady Merkley, who was looking to become a four-time state champion.

All told, the Utes had four wrestlers who reached championship matches, but came up short, prompting Keddy to call the day “bitter-sweet” despite the championship win and undefeated season as a team. 

“That’s why wrestling is so tough, even when you win the team title, you hurt for those seniors that worked their whole life for these matches but came up short,” Keddy said. “Brady Merkley was the individual who helped build these last two state title teams — he was my backbone that I used as an example of how to win and work hard. It’s hard to say you can be sad but still win, but we never lost a duel and we won every tournament we went to.”

Box Elder senior Bridger Ricks — who came into his championship match a three-time champion — was fortunate enough to end his high school wrestling career on top. Ricks (120) defeated Park City’s Jared Miller by fall to become a four-time champion.

Ricks ran into the stands after the win to hug and show appreciation to all the friends and family who came to support him in his final high school wrestling match. 

“I’m just grateful and that’s the only thing I can think of,” Ricks said. “My coaches, my parents, my teammates, my little brother being my practice partner everyday and just everyone here supporting me, it means a lot and wouldn’t be here without them. It’s an emotional moment for sure.”


5A boys state tournament

At UVU

Team scores

  1. Uintah, 276.5
  2. Payson, 265
  3. Wasatch, 184
  4. Lehi, 93
  5. Viewmont, 88.5
  6. Mountain View, 87.5
  7. Box Elder, 83
  8. Spanish Fork, 79.5

Individual results

106 pounds

1. Karson Shelley, Spanish Fork

2. Connor Knudsen, Timpanogos

3. Logan Holmes, Uintah

4. Breyton Banks, Salem Hills

5. Dallen Thomas, Payson

6. Tyler Khoundet, Stansbury

Championship — Karson Shelley, Spanish Fork def. Connor Knudsen, Timpanogos, Fall 3:43

113 pounds

1. Michael Alexander, Uintah

2. Aaron Garcia, Payson

3. Glade Harman, Mountain View

4. Parker Hansen, Tooele

5. Gable Stoddard, Mountain View

6. Braden Balmforth, Cedar Valley

Championship — Michael Alexander, Uintah def. Aaron Garcia, Payson, Fall 0:22

120 pounds

1. Bridger Ricks, Box Elder

2. Jared Miller, Park City

3. Parker Hayes, Wasatch

4. Eduardo Cabrera, Payson

5. Jaxon Moe, Alta

6. James Astling, Viewmont

Championship — Bridger Ricks, Box Elder def. Jared Miller, Park City, Fall 3:22

126 pounds

1. Heath Clyde, Wasatch

2. Ethan Boulton, Payson

3. Andrew Monson, Skyline

4. Brody Rhoades, Uintah

5. Raiden Harrison, Uintah

6. Spencer Lee, Viewmont

Championship — Heath Clyde, Wasatch def. Ethan Boulton, Payson, 5-2

132 pounds

1. Ryder Robinson, Wasatch

2. Cody Burr, Mountain View

3. David Wetzel, Spanish Fork

4. Jackson Ricks, Box Elder

5. Creeson Harrison, Uintah

6. Will Dixon, Payson

Championship — Ryder Robinson, Wasatch def. Cody Burr, Mountain View, 10-0

138 pounds

1. Colton Theobald, Payson

2. Austin Kelly, Wasatch

3. Andrew Weakley, Springville

4. Bridger Warren, Spanish Fork

5. Cole Carter, Payson

6. Jaxon Johnson, Uintah

Championship — Colton Theobald, Payson def. Austin Kelly, Wasatch, 4-1

144 pounds

1. Colton Erickson, Woods Cross

2. Brady Merkley, Uintah

3. Layne Osborn, Payson

4. Tyler Blevins, Mountain View

5. Bryson Lloyd, Wasatch

6. Jacob Rhoades, Uintah

Championship — Colton Erickson, Woods Cross def. Brady Merkley, Uintah, 5-1

150 pounds

1. Isaac Orrock, Murray

2. Luke Degrafenried, Salem Hills

3. Dillon Dick, Uintah

4. Trevor Frank, Payson

5. Alex Koyle, Spanish Fork

6. Ben Brown, Northridge

Championship — Isaac Orrock, Murray def. Luke Degrafenried, Salem Hills, 6-1

157 pounds

1. Moses Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont

2. Christian Slack, Wasatch

3. Chandler Thompson, Murray

4. Conner Zamani, Box Elder

5. Kelton Smith, Payson

6. Cole Andersen, Spanish Fork

Championship — Moses Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont def. Christian Slack, Wasatch, 12-5

165 pounds

1. Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont

2. Dustin Rhoades, Uintah

3. Cameron Williams, Mountain View

4. Charlie Fassold, Wasatch

5. Kobe Paniagua, Murray

6. Quayde Beck, Payson

Championship — Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont def. Dustin Rhoades, Uintah, 12-4

175 pounds

1. Landen Shurtleff, Payson

2. William Price, Uintah

3. Tevita Valeti, Springville

4. Joshua Biesinger, Maple Mountain

5. Cole Eldredge, Lehi

6. Josh Olson, Stansbury

Championship — Landen Shurtleff, Payson def. William Price, Uintah, Fall 5:58

190 pounds

1. Austin Richens, Uintah

2. Andrew Jensen, Maple Mountain

3. Will McCleary, Lehi

4. Chandler Loveless, Payson

5. Jace Beckstead, Alta

6. Hudson Doussett, Orem

Championship — Austin Richens, Uintah def. Andrew Jensen, Maple Mountain, 13-7

215 pounds

1. Cash Henderson, Woods Cross

2. Monson Morley, Salem Hills

3. Angel Fuentes, Payson

4. Stone Combs, Park City

5. Jett Swain, Uintah

6. Danny Hoyal, Lehi

Championship — Cash Henderson, Woods Cross def. Monson Morley, Salem Hills, Fall 3:03

285 pounds

1. Isaac Terrell, Lehi

2. Gage Howard, Uintah

3. Alex Rosas, Stansbury

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4. Alex Hansen, Orem

5. Austin McNaughtan, Wasatch

6. Nathan Bulpitt, Lehi

Championship — Isaac Terrell, Lehi def. Gage Howard, Uintah, Dec 5-1

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