By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Shane Marshall
There are always surprises at the state wrestling tournament. A year ago, favored Maple Mountain finished second in Class 4A despite winning six individual championships. State title winning Mountain Crest had just one, but dominated by having a large number of its athletes place.
So, what will we be talking about at the conclusion of the 2015 tournament?
1. Four-time champions – Three wrestlers will be on the mats this year seeking to win their fourth state championship. That’s three young men looking to make it 4-for-4, but it should have been four.
Pleasant Grove’s Kyson Levin won at 106 pounds his freshman year in 2012, then followed that up with a win at 113 before repeating at 113 in 2014. Now, he was the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 120 pounds and set to look for an impressive four-year sweep until a torn labrum ended his season prematurely.
The three wrestlers who join Levin in pursuit of four in a row are all Class 1A champions. Altamont’s Brady Farnsworth could get a challenge from Zac Musselman of Monticello as he tries to win at 126 pounds after previously winning state at 106, 113 and 120 pounds. His teammate, Rylee Foy, won the 160-pound division as a freshman and sophomore before moving up to win 170 a year ago. This time around, it looks like he will go after the title at 182.
Monticello’s Cole Eldredge has previous titles at 132, 145 and will look to defend his title at 152 this year as he tries to make it four straight.
2. Three-timers – South Summit’s Matt Lee will fight for the 126-pound title in Class 2A after winning at 113 in 2013 and at 120 in 2014. Joining Lee in the attempt for a third title this year is a trio of Utah County wrestlers.
Jacob Armstrong of Salem Hills has won titles at 145 and 160 pounds. Now, the senior will try to make it 3-for-4 at 182 pounds in 2015. Defending 4A 132-pound champion Taylor LaMont has been ranked at 126 pounds this year, and the junior will try to stay on track for a shot at a fourth title next season as he seeks No. 3. Pleasant Grove junior Ben Anderson is also on track, as he looks for a third crown in 5A this season.
3. Power teams – The team with the best consecutive team title streak enters the tournament as the top-ranked team in Class 2A. Delta won that classification last year after moving down from 3A, where the Rabbits claimed state titles the five seasons before that. They should be favored to win their seventh championship since 2009.
Millard will look to dethrone Delta, having won seven of the last nine 2A titles. That’s every championship from 2006 to 2013 with the exception of 2011, when South Summit interrupted the run.
Class 1A has a similar situation, as Monticello took the top spot in 2014, but before that, this was a classification owned by Altamont, which won four consecutive championships between 2010 and 2013.
One of the most impressive runs in recent memory is the current streak for Pleasant Grove, which is the favorite to win its fifth straight 5A championship this year.
4. Looking for No. 2 – There are a number of other wrestlers who are looking to become repeat individual champions. Junior Nelson Jones from Pleasant Grove won at 106 last year, and will look to step up to 126 pounds this time around. Davis junior Wyatt Koelling is the 5A favorite at 195 pounds after winning the 182-pound title a year ago.
Tanner Cox and Johnny O’Hearon of Maple Mountain are returning state champions, while Wasatch junior Braiden Parker will also try to repeat in 4A.
In Class 3A, Bear River’s Nick Bingham, Kedric Coonis from Uintah, Jed Loveless of Payson, Ashton Seely from Juab and Desert Hills’ twin brothers Cody and Tyler Stevenson are all hoping to make it back-to-back titles. A pair of Payson grapplers, Josh Jensen and Riley Loveless, who won state championships in 2013 but came up short a year ago, will look to get back on top.
In 2A, Jaxon Cole (North Summit), Bracken Lovell (Delta) and Quigley Whitaker (Millard) are defending champs, and in 1A David VanTassell (Duchesne), Brandon Musselman (Monticello), Preston Stephenson (Wayne), Derrik Thompson (Altamont) and Rowdy Josie (Panguitch) seeking a second championship. Zack Allen from Piute is looking to get back to his 2013 championship form after taking second at 132 pounds last year.
5. The big men – The 285-pound battle in Class 5A should be interesting. The heavyweight division has been owned by Pleasant Grove’s Zac Dawe in recent years, but with him graduated, the two senior wrestlers who finished second and third last season are looking to step up to the top of the podium. Lehi’s Brackin Stringam and Dalton Mortensen of Granger both want that spot.