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Prep wrestling: West's Will Lang a rising star

Published February 21, 2012 6:31 pm

Phenom Panther has deep roots in the sport — and has plenty to look forward to.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West's wrestling future is looking up. Just watch Will Lang compete in one match.

He's chiseled. He's tough. He's unintimidated.

And he's just 14 years old.

"I'm stronger than a lot of kids I go against," Lang says. "I'm kind of used to it."

The freshman phenom burst onto the Class 5A scene this year, winning the 152-pound region championship and following up with a fourth-place finish at the state wrestling meet.

There seems to plenty ahead to look forward to for Lang. He wrestles at a weight where he competes against many fully developed seniors. With years of growth and experience ahead, the Panthers are optimistic about their young grappler.

"Every tournament, every match, he just gets more and more confident," coach Mike Schmidt says. "A lot of kids in our program have never wrestled before, but Will came to us as an experienced club wrestler. But he's done a lot this year to get better."

Lang's roots are deep in the sport.

He's from New Jersey, and his family has an extensive wrestling history in New York. His father took third in the state in high school and wrestled at Ithaca College. His uncle, Richard Lang, was recent enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his work as a high school coach.

Understandably, expectations are high.

"It's definitely a lot to live up to," Lang says.

But he's done his part to add to the Lang wrestling legacy. As a club wrestler, Lang has placed in the Terminator World Championships and the Gladiator World Championships. Among his peers, there's only a handful of wrestlers in the country who can beat him.

But in high school, Lang didn't wrestle his peers — he had to learn to wrestle competitors with years of experience on him.

To practice, Lang spent many of his wrestling practices wrestling one-on-one with Preston Montoya, a West alum who now competes for Weber State. Montoya has a 10-pound advantage on Lang and four more years under his belt — and he never let up, either.

Getting beaten by Montoya time after time wasn't much fun, Lang acknowledges, but it made him a better wrestler. More importantly, it made him lose the fear of wrestling a better, older opponent.

"You have this guy who's placing in college tournaments who goes one-on-one with me every day, and he would beat me pretty good," Lang says. "But he kept telling me as long as we keep doing this, I'll keep getting better and better."

Lang's improvements showed throughout the season, and Schmidt says he feels Lang peaked during the state tournament. He recorded three victories, including one over fourth-ranked Zach Huntsman of Weber, on his way to his fourth-place finish.

His skill set, which was already good, is expanding as well.

"He's got a mean head throw, and he can shoot the legs pretty well — he gets that from his freestyle experience," Schmidt says. "What he's really worked on is scoring on his feet. That's why he would get a few losses, but he's come a long way."

Lang already has a lot of his summer planned out. He and his brothers will continue working at Ute Crossfit, and they have a bunch of tournaments to go to.

And Lang is already looking forward to next season, dreaming of a state championship.

"I'm young, so I know I'm just going to keep getting better and better," he says. "I still have time to keep working."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

West's Will Lang

As a freshman, Lang went 37-12 and won the region championship at 152 pounds.

Lang placed fourth in the state wrestling meet, winning three of his five matches.