Pair of seniors win fourth consecutive high school state wrestling titles

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

(Alex Vejar | The Salt Lake Tribune) Layton High senior Terrell Baraclough holds his medal after winning his fourth consecutive 6A state wrestling championship on Thursday, Feb 14, 2019 at the UCCU Center of Utah Valley University.