Prep wrestling: Dominant programs set to defend legacies at state tournament
Legacies are the narrative at the state's high school wrestling tournament.
Programs from all over the state, of classes large and small, will either continue domination or be cut down from their respective pedestals by up-and-coming teams.
This weekend's 2014 version of the state tournament is no different.
Powerhouse programs like Pleasant Grove, Maple Mountain, Delta, Millard and Altamont are all out to keep the state's grappling crown in the hallways of their respective schools. The tournament, which starts Thursday at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, will be a three-day affair, with the championship round for each class, 1A through 5A, being determined Saturday nights under the lights.
The Vikings are the three-time 5A champions and feature several key contributors from last year's title-winning team. Pleasant Grove returns eight individual placers from 2013, but nipping at their heels are the likes of Herriman, Layton and Syracuse.
Mustangs coach Steve Bowdren said the coaching staff is fine-tuning both the physical and mental preparation for this weekend's tournament, saying they've brought in guest speakers, gone through visualization exercises and have even implemented some yoga.
All of which could go a long way, if Herriman can contend to upset the Vikings.
"We have all the potential to win a championship if we should show up and dance," Bowdren said. "If things go our way, if we display the heart we have, if we're mentally prepared, we'll give ourselves a chance."
Maple Mountain head coach Justin Judkins said this year's tournament will be a bit different for the Golden Eagles. The two-time 4A champs graduated 22 wrestlers from last year's championship team and depth could be an issue for a program looking to defend its crown against Box Elder and Mountain Crest. Each match, each point, each major decision is crucial for the Golden Eagles should they repeat.
"Before, we could drop one here or there," Judkins said, "but this year we have a very slim margin of error."
The Delta Rabbits are no strangers to domination. In fact, the program has won 31 state titles, eight more than second-place Uintah. The five-time defending 3A winners are in a new class this year, having been moved down to 2A where they'll face stiff competition from cross-county rivals Millard and fellow 2A programs Beaver and North Sevier.
But Delta coach Jason Thomas warms when speaking about his program's rich history.
"These kids start going to the state tournament when they're old enough to walk," Thomas said. "They sit in the stands and tell themselves, 'I want to be that guy someday.' The tradition definitely helps."
2014 UHSAA state wrestling tournament
O At the Maverik Center, West Valley City
4-6:15 p.m. • 4A, 5A Round 1
6:30-8:30 p.m. • 4A, 5A quarterfinals
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. • 2A, 3A Round 1
12:45-2:45 p.m. • 2A, 3A quarterfinals
5:15-6:45 p.m. • 1A quarterfinals
7-9 p.m. • 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A semifinals
4:30-7 p.m. • 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A championship finals