By Isabel Newell
Photos by Kevin McInnis
The two boys look at each other from across the mat. This is the final moment that will decide who takes state in wrestling.
The crowd waits anxiously for the match to begin. The referee gives the signal and the boys rush into action.
Three periods later, the wrestler Brayden Stevens beat at the divisional championships, Hunter’s Antonio Ruiz is on his back with a leg injury. His coach carries Ruiz from the mat, but time is up and Stevens loses the Class 5A 126-pound wrestling state title match by the score of 7-6.
“I choked,” Stevens said.
By the time he kicked it into gear, he said, it was too late.
“It’s a big deal because I want to be better than my dad,” he said of his two-time state champion father-coach. “I look up to him a lot, so to be even equal or better than him is a big deal.”
Stevens has been wrestling since he was three years old with his dad as his coach. He is confident and believes in himself.
He practices every day for two to three hours during the season and then spends his Tuesdays and Thursdays at Utah Valley University getting private lessons. It’s a lot of work, but for Stevens, it’s just another part of his life.
His dad, Mitch Stevens, said that Brayden works extremely hard and is learning how to get better at dealing with the emotions that come with losing. Mitch said it can sometimes be tough to be a coach and a dad at the same time. He also said he enjoys watching the kids improve and go from losing a lot of matches to winning almost everything.
“He’s a good wrestler,” said teammate Davis Reynaud, who said they were often partners during practice despite their size difference. He said Stevens can learn a lot from training with his older teammates and contribute a lot to the other boys on the team.
Stevens may have lost a tough match at the state wrestling tournament, but the sophomore isn’t the end of his story. He plans to come back next year even better and is already back at practice. He is set to compete freestyle and Greco Roman events in Iowa and North Dakota this summer.
Brighton High freshman Isabel Newell wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.