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Utah Valley girls wrestlers fired up for Year No. 2

By Brian E. Preece - Herald correspondent | Dec 23, 2021

Wrestlers from Westlake and Mountain Crest battle during the 2021 Wrestling Against Cancer Duals at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)

Girls wrestling enters its second year of being officially sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA). Two Utah County programs won the inaugural state tournaments last year as Westlake won the 6A crown and Maple Mountain won the 1A-3A/5A crown.

The UHSAA only has three classifications for girls wrestling. 4A and 6A have their own stand-alone state tournaments but the other classifications combine for a state meet. This was done to create three groups that had similar numbers of competitors.

The largest four programs in participation are Mountain Crest (4A), Westlake (6A), Syracuse (6A) and Bear River (4A). In fact, Mountain Crest has over 50 girl wrestlers. Westlake entered 25 wrestlers in the Christmas Clash and have close to 40 girls on their roster. Over 600 girls have gone through the hydration procedures statewide to compete, so girls wrestling is really exploding across the state in participation.

6A Wrestling Notes

Westlake is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as the state champions. The Thunder boast both a great quantity of wrestlers in their program, as well as quality.

Sophomore Celeste Detoles (125 pounds) has lost just once in two years and dominated the field at the Christmas Clash last weekend with four pins and a technical fall.

Joining Detoles as returning state champions are juniors Jamie Barton (110), Lizzie Shunn (140) and Emmy Finlinson (145). Shunn has actually earned a national ranking. Shunn’s only losses this season are to Esther Han of Mountain View, who is ranked nationally at No. 3. Finlinson has also lost just once this season.

Finlinson comes from a pedigree of successful wrestlers. Her Mom Emily actually competed in youth wrestling against the boys in the 1990s, and her father Jason was a 2-time state placer for West High School. Her older brother Jacob won three state titles for the Thunder. Jacob was the first state champion in Westlake history while Emmy was the first Thunder girl to take home the gold medal last season.

Shunn also had a brother compete for Westlake showing that many times older siblings often lay the groundwork for sparking interest in the sport for female wrestlers.

Westlake has plenty of depth as Ashley Cannon (115), Quincy Peterson (130), Hailey Piig (145), Samantha Dodson (155), Jessica Harrison (170), and Keilikki Rarick (235) have placed high in tournaments and dominated the competition.

Even though Westlake finished first against 48 other teams at the Christmas Clash, including nationally ranked Slam Academy out of Las Vegas, Thunder head coach Cody Burdett feels his team still wants to improve and be more dominant.

“As a coach of an elite team, it can be easy to be complacent and satisfied with taking first in a field of 49 teams including beating nationally ranked Slam Academy,” Burdett said. “But I see a bunch of girls who are still in the process of becoming the best version of themselves. We have lots of work to do. Not just with technique, but we need to work on our mental toughness. We need to find ways to win when things get tough.”

As the program grows, the Thunder are adding quality workout partners and depth to their squad.

“We have some brand new wrestlers this year like Kappy Robbins, Ameris Jensen, and Matia Murray who are making a difference for our team with just a few weeks of practice time,” Burdett said. “It just goes to show what good practice partners can do for new wrestlers and a team in general. We have a fun team of girls who all push each other in the room.”

Other local 6A wrestlers to watch are Skyridge’s Lianny Barrena (110), Pleasant Grove’s Gracie Borchardt (130) and Ava Krebs (135), and American Fork’s Maryanne Macdonald (130). Barrena placed second at the F.I.G.H.T. event hosted by Farmington High School earlier in the season.

1A-3A/5A Notes

Maple Mountain looks to be the team to beat as the Golden Eagles, like Westlake, are eager to back up their 2021 state titles.

For the Golden Eagles, Donna Wright (120) placed second in state last year as did Aurelia Ramos (195) and Nya Seiluli (235). Other Maple Mountain grapplers to eyeball are Cecily Morkel (105) and Kaylee Young (105).

Maple Mountain will be coached by Hailey Corona, the daughter of Billy Cox, who coached Maple Mountain last year. Cox moved to Nephi and will coach Juab and the Wasps are turning heads with a bunch of novice wrestlers that have shown well in early-season events.

Corona is truly one of the pioneer female competitors in girls wrestling in Utah. Before girls wrestling was sanctioned by the UHSAA, she was just the third Utah wrestler to qualify for the state tournament. When she got a chance to compete against just girls, Corona nailed down multiple All-American finishes and competed on national teams that traveled to Europe and South America.

Other teams hope to push Maple Mountain and three of them are in Utah County.

Springville has some top individual talent in returning state champion Hotaia Valeti (155) and returning state placers Izzy Clements (125/130) and Laura Weakley (125), along with freshman newcomers Ava Barker (105) and Emeri Mortimer (110).

If that Mortimer name is familiar, Emeri is the younger sister of Sage Mortimer, arguably the top female high school wrestler in the nation last year. Mortimer’s older brother Quenton Mortimer won multiple state titles showing that wrestling is truly a family affair.

“Springville Girls wrestling is off to a great start coming off of a fourth place finish at state last year and winning the Lady Hawk Invitational this year,” said Springville head coach David Valeti. “Adding wrestlers like Emeri Mortimer, Ava Barker, Rylee Axford (115), Karalee Harris (145) to an already tough group including Valery Ethington(115), Laura Weakley, and Malorie Stika (170) gives us a solid room.”

ALA returns two state champions in Rachel Camacho (110) and Oliva Carrillo (155) while Mountain View hopes to improve on its top five finish from last year with nationally ranked move-in Han (140) leading the way. Mountain View also has returning state finalist Zarieh Power (145) while Isla Baeza (135), Jocelyn Dean (140) and Bethany Poduska (155) give the Bruins additional firepower.

Other county wrestlers to watch are Payson’s January Langston (105), who placed second at the Days of Thunder tourney while Provo’s Katelyn Wolf (130) is a returning state placer. AnnaLee Wright (130) and Alexis Woods (135) look promising for the Cedar Valley Aviators. Taimane Fiatoa (170) of Timpview is the wrestler to beat in her weight class as the Thunderbird grappler took home the gold medal at last year’s state tourney.

6A Team Rankings: 1. Westlake 2. Syracuse 3. Copper Hills 4. Northridge 5. Granger 6. Layton 7. Farmington 8. Herriman 9. Fremont 10. Pleasant Grove.

1A-3A/5A Rankings: 1. Maple Mountain 2. Springville 3. Mountain View 4. ALA 5. Grantsville 6. Juab 7.Union 8. Hillcrest 9. Uintah 10. Cedar Valley.

4A Rankings: 1. Mountain Crest 2. Bear River 3. Ridgeline 4. Pine View 5. Crimson Cliffs.

Preece’s Power Poll Rankings: 1. Westlake 2. Mountain Crest 3. Bear River 4. Syracuse 5. Copper Hills 6. Northridge 7. Maple Mountain 8. Springville 9. Mountain View 10. Granger 11. ALA 12. Grantsville 13. Juab 14. North Sanpete 15. Union 16. Layton 17. Hillcrest 18. Uintah 19. Farmington 20. Herriman 21. Pine View 22. Crimson Cliffs. 23. Fremont. 24 Stansbury 25. Pleasant Grove .

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