State finals significant for Summit County
State finals are built on emotion and excitement, but the 2006 State Wrestling Championships were different for the schools of Summit County. Among a mix of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, this year’s meet at Utah Valley State College was one that many local young men will never forget.
No one will remember this year’s state finals more than Coltan Potter. At the beginning of the season, the 189-pound senior knew that this would be his year. He was wrestling well, his dad, Rene, was the coach and there seemed to be few wrestlers in the state that could challenge him.
He was ready to prove himself on the first day of the State meet on Thursday when tragedy struck. During the first round of competition, Potter’s grandmother, Jean, suffered a heart attack in the stands of the McKay Center during Potter’s match against Juab’s Todd Watts. Emergency crews rushed to the scene and took Jean to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. Potter grandfather died three weeks earlier. Potter dedicated the rest of the meet to his grandparents’ memory and wrestled his way to the state title in his weight class, giving a bittersweet ending to the entire Potter family.
"It feels great to win for my grandparents and my dad," Potter said. "I feel like I’m on cloud nine."
"I can’t even describe it. It feels fantastic, awesome," Rene said.
Potter was also voted the 2002 2A outstanding wrestler in the upper weight divisions. He also finished the season -setting records for North Summit with a 41-0 record, which included 19 consecutive pins, and 37 total pins.
Four other North Summit wrestlers finished in the top six.
In the world of small-town wrestling, being a state contender is no small feat. But for 2A South Summit, they knew heading into the season that they had a legitimate chance to finish in the top three in the state.
Two state champions and 191 total points later, South Summit reached their goal as they finished third in the state behind wrestling powerhouses Millard and Juab.
"I was hoping for a shot at second, but I knew it was a long shot, because we’re really young," said Wildcats head coach Gary Crandall.
South Summit was lead by two-time state champion senior Cliff Leavitt in the 160-pound weight class, and junior Cody Wall, who won the 135-pound class. Out of the 18 Wildcats that qualified for the state meet, half of them finished in sixth place or higher.
Crandall hopes that the team can move into second place by next year. He is only losing three seniors and says that there are many promising wrestlers in the program willing to work hard.
"Anytime we can show improvement year after year I tell the kids every day we walk into the gym to be a little better," Crandall said.
What better way to cap off an inaugural year than with a state champion?
When Oakley head wrestling coach and school athletic director Russell Love decided to start a prep wrestling program, he knew he had something special in Greg Vernon. The senior from Florida had qualified for the state finals in his home state before and dominated his competition in regular season meets, never allowing a point to be scored on him. Vernon proved his talent by claiming the 1A State title in the 140-pound division.
"I knew if I wrestled my best, I could win," Vernon said.
The win was important to Vernon who hopes to wrestle in college, but it also helps Love to build his fledgling program.
"It makes a big difference," Love said. "It’s hard to grow getting new kids every year. This will help."
Besides his wrestling ability, Vernon also spent much of the season helping Love when he was busy as the athletic director. According to Love, he would often spend practice instructing his fellow wrestlers.
"I’m pretty proud, without getting emotional," Love said, clearly starting to get emotional.
"I felt a sense of pride and hard work," Vernon said. "Russell has put his all into the program."
Devin Bendsley in the 171-pound weight class also qualified for the State meet.
Park City had only one State qualifier, but that wasn’t a problem for Doug Eaton. As the team’s heavyweight, Eaton was plenty of man for the job.
Wrestling as a sophomore for the first time in the State finals, Eaton may not have been the most experienced wrestler at the meet, but he was determined to do his best.
Unfortunately, he lost in the first round on Thursday, but feels like he learned a lot from the day.
"I know definitely next year I want to get more practice and make it farther in the state," Eaton said.
According to Miners’ head coach Eric O’Conner, the young heavyweight actually wrestled quite well in his two losing matches.
"He was just nervous," O’Conner said. "He’s looking forward to next year."
Besides O’Conner, two other wrestlers from the Park City program traveled to Orem to support Eaton.
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