Orem • With every individual matchup, the wrestlers of Wasatch and Payson high schools felt the pressure.
The two schools were only 2.5 points apart for the team championship going into Thursday’s state wrestling tournament. But wins from River Wardle, Stockton O’Brien and Sammy Heywood of Wasatch gave the Wasps just enough cushion to take the 5A title by a team score of 243.5-234.
It was Wasatch’s third state championship in four years and 22nd in school history.
Wasatch coach Wade Discher said winning the title was special this year considering the level of competition against Payson.
“We knew it was going to be an uphill climb,” Discher said.
Wardle started things off in the 132-pound division, beating Parker Frasure of Farmington in a close 4-3 decision. Heywood pinned Anthonee Ouk of Brighton, and O’Brien dominated Moses Espinoza-Owens, 16-5.
“It’s those three back to back to back that really did it,” Discher said.
O’Brien said he knew the battle between Payson and Wasatch was “a big deal,” but he and his teammates tried to just focus on getting points in their respective bouts. But the closeness of the team score contributed to what types of wins his team tried to get.
“It makes it so you’re really pushing the pace when you’re wrestling,” O’Brien said. “You want to score as much points to give your team the best chance of winning the state title.”
O’Brien’s win put him in an elite club of Utah wrestlers that have won four state championships. He said his fourth feels better than the rest.
“I think it’s pretty special,” O’Brien said. “Not many people can do it. So for me to be one of them, it’s really important to me. I’m glad I achieved it.”
Payson, which jumped to 5A from 4A this year, won the state championship in its prior classification last year. It looked as though the Lions were in position to win in 5A when Cole Jensen and Layne Shepherd won back-to-back bouts.
Shepherd, a junior who won his first state title Thursday, said the team points were on his mind before his individual bout.
“You go into your matches thinking, ‘I need to win for my team, I need to get these points for my team, not just be able to win for me,’” said Shepherd, who transferred from Spanish Fork this year. “You think about your team a lot more than you just do yourself.”
The 6A team championship had already been decided by the time the state title rounds started Thursday evening. Pleasant Grove High School went into Thursday with 263 points, far ahead of second-place Layton High School, which had 175.5.
Pleasant Grove, which has won nine state titles in the last 10 years, ended with 274.5 points, while Layton had 191.5.
Vikings senior Oakley Ridge, who was another first-time state champion, said there was a sense of relaxation going into Thursday knowing the team had already gotten its title.
“We’d rather have it locked up the first day,” Ridge said. “That’d be hard to have that pressure of, ‘If I lose this match, my team might lose the state championship.’ ”
STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
106: Dallan Hunsaker, American Fork
113: Quade Smith, Layton
120: Aidan Harris, Layton
126: Jacob Finlinson, Westlake
132: Mason Denton, Fremont
138: Tyson Humpherys, Layton
145: Oakley Ridge, Pleasant Grove
152: Joshua Rassi, Syracuse
160: Kameron Moss, Corner Canyon
170: Jake Richardson, Pleasant Grove
182: Mason Christiansen, Bingham
195: Talmage Carman, Herriman
220: Kenton Norman, Herriman
285: Kade Carlson, Corner Canyon
106: Kyison Garcia, Mountain Ridge
113: Bridger Ricks, Box Elder
120: Cole Jensen, Payson
126: Layne Shepherd, Payson
132: River Wardle, Wasatch
138: Sammy Heywood, Wasatch
145: Stockton O’Brien, Wasatch
152: Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont
160: Jeremy Evans, Viewmont
170: Andrew Jensen, Maple Mountain
182: Lucas Cochran, Box Elder
195: Jacob Anderson, Farmington
220: Sau Tafisi, East
285: James Tomasi, Provo