Prep wrestling: Maple Mountain making a name for itself
Spanish Fork • They remember when nobody knew who they were.
It was only two years ago when the Maple Mountain wrestling team would go to meets almost anonymously. The school had just opened, and few in the state were even looking out for the Golden Eagles.
Of course, once they wrestled Maple Mountain, they wouldn't soon forget it.
"We try to remember that every time we wrestle, we're trying to make a statement," junior Britain Carter says. "We want people to remember us. We want to represent our school."
It's hard to imagine Maple Mountain doing a better job of representing itself than it has in its first two seasons. Last year, the Golden Eagles took a step forward by winning second place in the Class 4A tournament and getting three individual state champions.
They're already hungry for more, and this year they have a team that could challenge Box Elder, the squad that surged far ahead of the field last year.
Maple Mountain so far has been the precocious new school with a wrestling team consisting of individually accomplished members. But the Golden Eagles' goal is to be seen as one of the elite perennial powers and it appears they're well on their way. Winning The Rumble last week at UVU over Payson, Delta and a few out-of-state powers should be a warning sign to all opponents.
"For someone like me, it's a lot about finally getting the feel of wrestling," says Jordan Argyle, who wrestles at 170 pounds. "I'm getting to the point where I can wrestle with my eyes closed. A lot of guys are wrestling a lot better this year."
Although returning state champs Brandon George, Grant LaMont and Carter are stalwarts, this year's team has been about balance. Wrestlers such as Austin Rowley, Kimball Bastian and Jesse Carlisle are breaking through as title contenders, and others might be potential state placers.
It starts with the team's conditioning coach Justin Judkins has the Golden Eagles convinced they have the most challenging workout routine of any program in Utah. They lift weights in the morning four times a week. After school, they'll practice until 5:30 p.m. using a variety of wrestling drills, plyometrics and cross-training exercises.
A typical stretch: They wrestle a partner for two minutes. Judkins blows a whistle. They do pushups for two minutes. Whistle. They do squats with a partner on their shoulders. Whistle. More wrestling. Whistle. They climb ropes to the ceiling. And this goes on and on, all the while with Judkins pacing the room like a drill sergeant, telling them they aren't going fast enough or working hard enough.
"The other day, I went home and didn't talk to anyone," Rowley says. "My parents were worried I was depressed or something was wrong. No, we just wrestled live for an hour, then ran sprints for an hour. I'm just tired don't have any energy left."
The work is only part of it. Most of the people on the team have wrestled together since their days at Mapleton Junior High, when they were also a dominant program. They've spent years on the road together, sharing hotel rooms and celebrating each other's achievements.
"We're all kind of brothers," George says. "People say this is an individual sport, but we really do have a team."
That team resolve has been tested. Several wrestlers last season and even this season were discontented with the program and elected to quit.
But that hasn't had a divisive effect on Maple Mountain. The wrestlers who remain are OK seeing others go.
"I think some of that held us back last year," LaMont says. "I think we could've been even better. This year, we definitely have higher goals, and the people who are still here are pretty motivated."
It won't be easy to deal with Box Elder and Mountain Crest, seen as two of the top contenders this year. Maple Mountain has some of the strongest wrestlers in the light weights, but depth gets thinner and thinner in the heavier groups.
Of course, it'd be dangerous to count them out, either.
"We're going to keep pushing," Carter says. "We're going to keep working until that extra work shows on the mat."
Maple Mountain on the rise
In only its third year, the program should contend for a Class 4A team title.
The Golden Eagles finished a distant second to Box Elder last year with three individual champions.
Maple Mountain won The Rumble at UVU this season, beating out Payson and Delta.