Prep 4A wrestling: Maple Mountain once again wins state
Orem • Maple Mountain senior Landon Knutzen made good on his one final shot at glory, then sprinted up the poorly lit stairs at Utah Valley University to find his parents.
A 138-pounder on the best team in 4A wrestling, Knutzen eyed the night he would have a chance to wrestle under the lights with an entire crowd fixated on the mat he competed on.
In fact, he couldn't get it out of his mind.
Last year, Knutzen, then a highly ranked 132-pounder junior, was preparing to wrestle at the Region 8 tournament. He weighed in on the dot at Maple Mountain before jumping on the bus to head to the tournament, but once there, he came in a sliver over.
He couldn't wrestle at region. He couldn't wrestle at state.
So when he defeated Box Elder's Teagan Hubbard 3-0 Thursday night, one of the many Golden Eagle stars finally earned his wings.
"I did it," Knutzen said. "It's what I've been working for, what I've been waiting for and I did it."
He was one of many.
Maple Mountain defended its 4A straight crown from a year ago with ease, going 7 for 9 in Thursday night's 4A finals and finishing with a combined 360 points, 58.5 points ahead of second place Box Elder.
"No matter where I took them, we didn't just win, we dominated," said Maple Mountain coach Justin Judkins.
Thursday night was a typical night for the Golden Eagles.
Senior 120-pounder Britain Carter won his fourth straight state title. Grant LaMont won his third straight, while younger brother Taylor won his first championship. Josh Searle and Jon Wixom also capped off their 2012-13 seasons as best wrestlers in their weight.
Then there was 160-pounder Kimball Bastian.
The Maple Mountain grappler faced off against rival and two-time defending state champion Rasten Yeates of Box Elder in the finals. Earlier this year, Yeates defeated Bastian in triple overtime.
Going into the gold-medal match, Judkins wondered if Bastian, who competed with a torn meniscus in his knee, believed he had a chance to defeat one of the best wrestlers in the state.
"Tonight I looked in his eyes and knew I got him to buy in," Judkins said.
Bastian upset the two-time champ in a physical, bloody match with a 5-3 victory.
"The guy who wins last," Judkins said, "he's the champ."
For Carter, completing his four-peat was a feat he was nervous about going in. The future Columbia University wrestler said the pressure was definitely on to become part of an elite group to leave high school wrestling with four state titles.
"You have to be the four-timer," he said, "not the guy who won the first three years and lost his senior year."
Now, Maple Mountain must move forward, both as state champions and as state champions that must replace irreplaceable talent.
"When you get a group of wrestlers who are so good, you get this mentality of, 'We need to be the very best,' " Carter said.
For a second year in a row, the Golden Eagles were pure gold.