3A wrestling: Delta squeaks out crown No. 31
3A wrestling • Rabbits hold off Payson’s rally to earn fifth straight team championship.
Published: February 18, 2013 12:44PM
Updated: May 21, 2013 11:32PM
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Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune (right) Bracken Lovell of Delta competes with (left) Riley Loveless of Payson in the 120 pound weight class during 3A Utah State Wrestling Championship at UCCU at Utah Valley University in Orem on February 16, 2012. Loveless went on to win the match.

Editor’s note: The story has been changed to correct the name of Delta’s coach.

Orem • He hugged every teammate he could find.

He told them he loved them and told them without their relentless support, he wouldn’t have made it back to wrestle under the lights at Utah Valley University for his one final shot at glory.

Delta senior Jose Garcia won a 113-pound state championship Saturday night that back at the beginning of the season seemed unattainable. Having lost in the state finals a year ago as a junior, Garcia came into this season out of shape and, in wrestling standards, overweight.

He got as far as 24 pounds over the weight he would eventually win gold in.

“Not seeing my team was the hardest thing ever,” he said, smiling as blood began to dry on his nose. “Knowing how they were in there working their butts off and I was out messing around … they got me back.”

In Saturday’s 3A state final in Orem, Garcia’s title was immeasurable for the Rabbits, who ended with 217.5 points. They won their fifth straight team championship, holding off a furious Day 2 rally by Payson as the Lions finished with 210.5.

“He’s got a great heart,” Delta coach Jason Thomas said about Garcia. “I never questioned whether or not he was going to make it. I knew he would make it. I knew he’d be there.”

Garcia said he couldn’t help but think back to his mindset when he struggled to get back into game shape, and, for a short time, walking away from his favorite sport.

“They had my back the entire time,” he said, pointing to his teammates.

Delta’s 31st state championship did not come via pins in the tournament’s biggest stage — in fact, the Rabbits lost four of their five championship bouts Saturday. This year’s group won another title through fighting for crucial consolation points in each day of the tournament.

“We preach all year, ‘Team, team, team,’” Thomas said. “That’s what was going to win us a state title without any real superstars.”

Aside from the Rabbits, Hurricane’s Zach Prince was the star of the 3A tourney. The 152-pound wrestler won his fourth straight state title, eventually collapsing over the railing into the welcoming arms of family and friends.

“No one can take that away,” he said, gasping for breath.

Payson’s Jed Mellen won his third straight state championship in the 138-pound final as did Cedar junior grappler Dusty Hone, who won No. 3 in a row in the 126-pound final.

ckamrani@sltrib.com