Lightweights lead Wildcats to third place
The UHSAA Class 2A State Wrestling Tournament ended Saturday with disappointment for one side of Summit County and redemption for the other as South Summit High School hung its head over a repeat third-place finish from last year, and North Summit celebrated a rise to sixth from eighth.
Millard dominated the tournament, beating second-place Juab, by 100 points. South Summit trailed Juab by 20 points, an outcome the coaches had not expected. "I was hoping for second, but things just didn’t work out," head coach Gary Crandall said.
Injury may have played a role in the coach’s initial hopes for the season, including two key heavyweights who did not even appear at the tournament. Continuing a dominance it established early this season, The Wildcats depended on the power of its lightweights, who appeared in every final match but one under 145 pounds.
However, while reaching the finals seemed easy for the Wildcats, victory was hard earned in the final ring. Marathon matches with oscillating scores defined each of Wildcats’ six finals, ending with a split for three wins and three second-place finishes.
Freshman Cody Thornton enjoyed the most substantial victory, besting Millard’s Kamron Day in the 103-pound championship by five points. Despite the comfortable margin, Thornton acknowledged the intensity of state competition. "It was a hard match," he said. "I had a whole world of butterflies."
Senior Jake Kohler won the 119-pound title in a somewhat tighter battle. Trailing 6-9 going into the second round, Kohler fought back to lead 11-9. the end of the third round, however, the score was tied at 13 points, putting the match into overtime. The wrestlers headed for sudden death, and an exhausted Kohler went for his last chance at a state championship. "I was pretty tired then, but I wanted to step it up for the team," Kohler said. A two-point takedown gave him the win, putting the normally subdued Crandall on his feet, punching the air. Kohler’s efforts won him the outstanding wrestler award in the lower weights.
The final win for the Wildcats came from 125-pound sophomore Kendall Prescott, who returned this year after breaking his femur in last year’s semi-finals, forcing him to settle 6th place. "It felt good to come back after that and win," he said. This year, another Wildcat wrestled with injury as sophomore Casey Christensen placed second with a dislocated shoulder. Crandall’s son, freshman Jonsen Crandall and senior Cody Wall, also took second. The Wildcats can look to redemption next year with much of the same team, losing just three point-scores to graduation.
North Summit, meanwhile, found its own redemption this year, moving up two places from last year to finish sixth after spending much of the season unranked and unnoticed. Coach Rene Potter said before the tournament that his team would surprise some people, and the Braves followed through with four wrestlers reaching the podium. Junior Caleb Adams took third points at 145 pounds, while classmates Chase Black and Tyrell Wright finished 5th at 160 pounds and 171 pounds respectively.
Senior Shoat Roath reached the finals at 189 pounds in one of the most anticipated duels of the tournament. Roath faced Millard’s nationally ranked T.J. Robbins, who was last year’s champion at 171 pounds. Roath and Robbins wrestled each other twice this season, splitting victories. The finale between the two promised a long-fought battle between wrestlers with vastly different styles. The six-foot-six inch Roath, lean and lanky for a wrestler, used speed and low dives to pin his opponents. His frame might be considered a disadvantage, but Potter said earlier in the season that Roath has power behind his height.
"For a big, tall kid, he is strong," he said. Robbins sported a more visibly muscular build, equally Roath’s weight despite barely reaching his shoulder. In the beginning, the match looked as if it might continue evenly for three rounds, but Robbins’ experience soon prevailed. The somewhat greener Roath, who did not place at state last year, struggled to escape the unfamiliar position of defeat. After surviving the first round, he fell to Robbins 20 seconds into the second round, ending his season at second place. But Roath’s wrestling career isn’t over yet. The senior said he plans to continue at Utah State University next year. North Summit, meanwhile, will return three of its point-scorers with plans to rise even higher next year.
Park City High School will look to improve its standing in the 3A class next year after featuring just two wrestlers in this year’s tournament. Doug Eaton fell in the first round at 160 pounds and TJ Gannon lost to eventual runner-up Curt Houghton at 285 pounds.
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