Prep 5A wrestling: Cutler's comeback caps a dominant night for Pleasant Grove
Bridger Cutler paced, first toward the spot where his red blood had spilled on the blue mat and then away from it.
The Pleasant Grove senior's left nostril was stuffed with gauze, but this was nothing new to him. Cutler's nose had been broken at least three times during his high school career. Usually, both nostrils would be filled to stop the deluge.
Layton's Kenny Astle was bleeding, too. But he was winning, big. After five minutes of wrestling, of trying to bend another man's body and will, Astle, the two-time state champion, held a commanding 9-1 lead.
Cutler had 60 seconds to pull off a miracle.
The crowd started to chant his name.
"I got this," the 145-pounder thought as he stopped pacing and took his spot.
A minute later, Cutler had thrown Astle to the ground twice to force an extra period. Cutler sensed weakness and used the same move, a left-handed headlock, one more time to secure the 16-11 victory.
"I'm telling you, that's the match of the century," Pleasant Grove assistant Korbin Levin, himself a three-time state champion, said after Cutler's win. "I've never seen a kid down nine points with a minute left get the same move three times in a row. You'll never see that again."
Cutler's championship was just one of six the Vikings earned Thursday en route to a third straight 5A team championship.
From 106-pounder Ben Anderson winning a 5-1 decision and then firing a pair of finger guns at the crowd, to big Zac Dawes' 7-4 win over Jordan's Richard Larsen, Pleasant Grove was nearly perfect. Only Taylorsville's Roy Nash, who capped off a 41-0 season with a first-place finish in the 220-pound weight class, beat a Viking wrestler in the finals.
After winning his second state championship, sophomore Kyson Levin breathed hard and rested his hands on his knees. But it was nothing compared with some of the Vikings' practices, including a 15-hour marathon practice the team once had.
"Nobody else has 15-hour practices," Levin said.
The Vikings routinely face off against older, stronger alumni to prepare for tournaments. And coach Brock Moore's weight-lifting sessions leave Korbin Levin more than happy to be in an assistant's role.
"I feel great now that I don't have to be in what I would call hell every day for six months," he said. "I come from a wrestling tradition, but I've never seen a team work as hard as these Vikings. They've really earned this."
That training meant the difference between a blowout loss and a miracle win for Cutler.
He praised his opponent, Astle, called him "a beast." But as Cutler stared down at the empty place where his opponent would soon stand, he knew he had an advantage.
"He was just gassed," Cutler said.
• Syracuse senior Zane Rich wrote it down in his journal: He wanted to be the first Titan to win two state championships.
"Every single day I thought about that goal," he said. "I told my teammates I want to be a two-time state champ, and they have to hold me to that. If I make a promise, I have to keep it."
Rich did just that, overcoming an early deficit to beat Cottonwood's Jed Diederich for first place in the 138-pound weight class.
• Alta's Matt Findlay moved up to the 126-pound weight class this season, but ended up with the same result. The junior beat Kearns' Antonio Meikel 8-0 for his third state championship.