Orem • Before Wasatch High senior Zak Kohler walked onto the wrestling mat at the UCCU Center of Utah Valley University on Thursday morning, he felt like he could hardly breathe. He’d been there three consecutive years prior, but this one felt different.
“I feel like I had an elephant sitting on my chest all morning long,” Kohler said.
But once he stepped on the mat, ready to defend his three 5A state wrestling championships, a calm came over him. He pinned his semifinal opponent and outlasted his counterpart in the final round to win his fourth straight 5A title. He wrestled in the 145-pound division.
“I can’t even put it into words on what it feels like to be able to say I'm a four-time state champ,” Kohler said moments after his win. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was in fifth grade. It really leaves me speechless.”
Kohler, when asked to rank his four state titles, said the one he won his freshman year was tops for him because he prevailed in a very close semifinals match and beat his teammate — whom he had never beaten before — in the final round. The other three, he said, felt about the same
But the weight of his fourth was definitely on his mind. He said losing his teammates will be hardest for him because he grew close to all of them, closer than he had his other teammates throughout his four years at Wasatch High.
When the referee stopped the match and declared him the winner, Kohler raised both his arms and made the thumb and index fingers of both hands into the shape of a W for Wasatch. His friends and family on one side of the arena cheered loudly, while portions of the other side booed.
While all that went on, Kohler couldn’t help but think of the journey that led to this fourth state title.
“Everything’s running through my mind," said Kohler, who in November committed to wrestle at the Unites States Air Force Academy. “It’s my whole life put on fast forward right out there.”
Wasatch coach Wade Discher said Kohler is the third in school history to win four state titles. The other two, he said, are Cael and Cody Sanderson, who are the head and assistant wrestling coaches, respectively, at Penn State. Discher said he was “super proud” of Kohler because he sets a good example for the rest of his teammates.
Kohler wasn’t the only wrestler to win his fourth straight state title on Thursday. Layton High senior Terrell Baraclough, who competed in the 138-point division of 6A, also completed the feat.
But Baraclough almost didn’t have the opportunity to compete at all. In December, he suffered two herniated disks in his neck, an injury initially feared to be much worse.
“It was rough,” said Baraclough. “I couldn’t move for two weeks.”
But Baraclough, with the aide of some over-the-counter pain medication, showed out during the two-day tournament. He won each of his four matches by pinning his opponent.
Baraclough, who is deciding between wrestling collegiately at West Point or Penn State, said this state championship means the most to him because he was able to overcome his injury.
But the Layton senior is ready to put all that behind him.
“That was fun,” Baraclough said. “Next big thing.”
Wasatch won the 5A state championship as a team, while Pleasant Grove High won the 6A team title.
State wrestling champions
Class 5A champions:
106: Bridger Ricks, Box Elder
113: Drew Lang, West
120: Mitchel Slack, Wasatch
126: River Wardle, Wasatch
132: Sammy Heywood, Wasatch
138: Stockton O’Brien, Wasatch
145: Zak Kohler, Wasatch
152: Holland Knudsen, Timpanogos
160: Isaac Wilcox, Olympus
170: Porter Chamberlain, Wasatch
182: Lucas Cochran, Box Elder
195: Tyson Zesiger, Viewmont
220: Emerson Conlon, Olympus
285: James Tomasi, Provo
Class 6A champions:
106: Quade Smith, Layton
113: Marco Herrera, Bingham
120: Jacob Finlinson, Westlake
126: Mason Denton, Freemont
132: Tyson Humphreys, Layton
138: Terrell Baraclough, Layton
145: Cole Zorn, Pleasant Grove
152: Mark Rausch, Herriman
160: Elijah Wilson, American Fork
170: Alec Bolingbroke, Layton
182: Cole Faust, Layton
195: Kolton Kammeyer, Fremont
220: Maika Tauteoii, Pleasant Grove
285: Jon Hunt, Layton