Wildcats wrestle win in own tournament
South Summit High School dominated the High Country Classic wrestling tournament Saturday, beating its nearest opponent in the field of 14 teams by 37 points. Wrestling on its home turf in the final event of the regular season, the Wildcats posted four weight class wins and three second-place finishes. Ranked third in the state among division 2A schools going into the tournament, South Summit stands poised to repeat last year’s third-place finish.
But don’t expect coach Gary Crandall to get excited over past success. Crandall, who has led South Summit over the past three years, said he doesn’t believe in taking anything for granted.
"I don’t take a lot of stock in rankings," he said. "On the day of competition, it’s the team who has the most heart that wins." Crandall praised his lightweight wrestlers, many of them freshmen and sophomores, for rising to the occasion in the absence of two regular point scorers in the upper-weight classes. "We’re used to relying on points from those heavier classes, but the smaller guys are really getting the job done," Crandall said. Winning for the Wildcats was freshman Cody Thornton at 103 pounds, freshman Jonsen Crandall at 112 pounds, junior Casey Christensen at 135 pounds, and senior Cody Wall at 140 pounds. The coaches voted Crandall Lower Weight Outstanding Wrestler as he improved his record to 34-8 by handing Cottonwood’s Spencer Brown a rare loss, dropping Brown’s record to 20-5.
North Summit High School’s Shoat Roath took the award for Upper Weight Outstanding Wrestler as he won the 189- pounds title with four straight pins. Roath, a senior, extended his winning streak to an overall 30-1 record. The Braves fielded one other weight class champion and two runners-up to fifth behind South Summit, Lehi, Weber, and Duchesne, all top-ranked schools in their divisions. Head coach Rene Potter said he was thrilled with his team’s efforts, noting that the Braves could take some teams off-guard at the state meet.
"I’m just tickled to death by the guys’ progress since the beginning of the season," Potter said. "Everything is ready to congeal at the right time, and I think we’ll surprise a lot of people."
Despite some impressive individual wrestlers, North Summit is notably absent from 2A state rankings. But Potter says it doesn’t bother him. He prefers to stay under the radar.
"I don’t want to look like state champs now," he said. The coach hasn’t even kept track of his team’s dual record. "I don’t really care what the score is. We’ll peak at the right time," he said.
Heading into regional competition, two North Summit competitors have already revealed some of the team’s potential. Roath, who did not place at state last year after an early loss to eventual champion TJ Robbins, has emerged as a particularly unbeatable force. He faced Robbins in the first dual of the year, defeating the champ 16-4.
"You’ve got to understand, TJ Robbins is the premier stud of wrestling," Potter said. "It was pretty neat to see everyone stop and watch as Shoat just took it to him."
Roath’s only loss this season resulted from an attempt to go for North Summit’s consecutive pin record, Potter said. "If he’d have played it safe, he’d still be undefeated."
Senior Chase Black has also garnered attention for the Braves, winning the 160 lb. class at South Summit in a dramatic fight that came down to the buzzer. Trailing by two points with less than 15 seconds in the third round, Black looked as if he would have to settle for second. But in a split-second escape, he overtook his opponent and held him for the win. Black will look for a spot on the podium at state, Potter said. Also appearing in the finals on Saturday were seniors Tyrell Wright at 171 pounds and Rand Mills at 215 pounds, who could emerge as key point scorers in the upcoming tournament.
Both Summit County schools will head to Richfield Feb. 3 for the regional match. Qualifying wrestlers will compete in the state tournament Feb. 8 at Utah Valley State College.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.