Orem • No other wrestling program in Utah has more state crowns than the Delta Rabbits.
Winners of 30 total high school state championships including the last four 3A state titles, the Rabbits are locked into a battle going for No. 31.
Following the first day of the 3A state wresting tournament at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University on Friday, Delta, sitting at 107.5 team points, has opponents nipping at its heels. The Payson Lions (97) and Wasatch Wasps (89) are within striking distance going into the second and all-important day of the semifinal and final matches. Right now, the Rabbits will have to outrun the competition and head coach Josh Wright knows it.
"It's the best time of the year for us from Delta," he said. "We embrace the challenge and just hope to outwork everybody."
First-year Payson coach and former UVU wrestler Jeb Clark said having the opportunity to contend for a state title is what he envisioned when he signed up with the Lions.
"That's why I took the job at Payson," he said. "I knew this was going to be the case."
The Lions came within one point of overtaking the 3A lead from the Rabbits thanks to several late pins, but Delta held off the charge to stay up by nearly 10 points. That will be crucial heading into Day 2 Saturday, when the Rabbits will have nine semifinalists competing for a shot to wrestle under the lights.
"We like having everyone chase us," Wright said.
Also qualifying for Saturday's semifinals are defending 3A state champions Dusty Hone of Cedar, Branson Ashworth of Spanish Fork, Jed Mellen of Payson, Zach Prince of Hurricane and Cameron Williamson of Cedar.
At 126 pounds, Hone, a junior, has his third straight state title in his sights. He attributes his toughness and desire to win from growing up with his two older brothers.
"They kicked my butt," he said. "That's why I'm good."
Wrestling since age 3, Hone said there is no feeling like wrestling for a state championship and after moving onto the semifinals, he vowed to not take any opponents or situation for granted.
"I treat every match the same," he said. "I'm ready. I can't wait for it."