Borrowing from the best
A few short years ago, Kaleb Moritz was the state wrestling champion in the 189-pound weight class. These days he’s taking that know-how to the wrestling mats at Park City High School, helping a young and relatively inexperienced program grow into a contender.
This is Moritz’s second season at the helm of the Miners’ wrestling program, and thus far he is pleased with the team’s progress. Moritz is young he is getting ready to enroll at the University of Utah next semester but he already knows that coaching wrestling is something he loves and plans to do for a very long time.
The Heber native grew up doing what most males do in Wasatch County, learning how to wrestle at a very young age and preparing to compete on one of the most competitive high school wrestling teams in the nation. He says it’s the time he spent at this legendary program that uniquely prepared him to coach the Miners.
"I think it gives me an advantage, because I see how a good program is run and I can model Park City’s program after that," Moritz said.
Practices are run much like Wasatch High School practices, a formula that Moritz knows is successful. He has received plenty of support from Park City High School athletic director Doug Payne, who has coached wrestling and has children who have competed in the sport. One of them is current Park City senior Matt Payne who, Moritz says, is the most talented wrestler on the Miners’ squad. Payne wrestles in the 182-pound weight class, just missed placing at last year’s state wrestling tournament and has a very good shot at grabbing a spot on the podium this year. Moritz hopes that Payne will take the leadership reins this year and show the young wrestlers how to excel at the sport.
Payne is joined by 220-pound-class wrestler JJ McDonough, the only other senior on the team. The group also includes two experienced sophomores, Josh Pelegrin at 145 pounds, and Tristan Bell at 138 pounds, who both show promise to place well at meets this season. Rounding out the program are 14 other wrestlers, mostly freshmen, who are new to the sport.
Moritz says it is a challenge to recruit wrestlers in a community where the youth passion is focused on skiing rather than wrestling, but he has found athletes who, he says, are committed to learning the sport and doing their best. The team traveled to its first tournament of the season last weekend and has another one this weekend at West High School in Salt Lake. Moritz feels the first meet was very important for his younger wrestlers.
"That was their first look at what high school competition will look like," he said "It just gets that first match out of the way and helps their improvement."
This week the Miners will host county rival North Summit in a dual meet at Park City High School on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. Moritz says he is looking forward to that meet because the Miners should match up well against the Braves. Both teams are struggling for numbers of wrestlers this year, and Moritz also thinks they should compare favorably at a few different weight classes.
Overall for the season, Moritz is just hoping for growth, improvement and ultimate success for his wrestlers. Payne and the two sophomore wrestlers have also set goals to place at the state tournament and Moritz is confident that at least half of his freshman can also qualify for state. And it’s their success that Payne says defines his success as a coach.
"My goal is to help them reach their goals," he said.
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.