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Wrestling update: Top 10 moments from 2021

By Brian E. Preece - Herald Correspondent | Dec 27, 2021
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The Payson wrestling team receives the first-place trophy after it won the state team title at the 5A state boys wrestling tournament at Wasatch High School in Heber on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. 

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Maple Mountain wrestler Brock Morris (right) battles Payson wrestler Layne Shepherd in the finals of the 126-pound weight class during the 5A state boys wrestling tournament at Wasatch High School in Heber on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. 

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Pleasant Grove head wrestling coach Brock Moore (second from right) joins the team to celebrate after winning the state title in the 6A state boys wrestling tournament at Corner Canyon High School in Draper on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. 

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Westlake freshman Celeste Detoles (right) battles Pleasant Grove senior Bryton Moore in the finals of the 120-pound weight class at the 6A state girls wrestling tournament in Saratoga Springs on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

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Sage Mortimer, of American Leadership Academy, sustains a hold on a leg of Kierstien Bush, of Bonneville, during the Utah All-Star Dual on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, at the UCCU Center in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Utah Valley rising sophomore Taylor LaMont gets his arm raised by an official after winning the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December of 2017. LaMont will next head to Slovakia to compete at his sixth consecutive Greco-Roman World Championship in September.

It was another fabulous year for wrestling in Utah County.

It wasn’t just at the high school level as Utah Valley had its best finish ever in the NCAA tournament.

Here are the top ten stories for Utah County wrestling in 2021:

10. Return of the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals

After a year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals returned with some new twists. Two schools, Provo and Westlake, hosted the event and there were a total of 10 girls duals and six boys duals. Monies were raised to help two families battling cancer and Westlake emerged the big winners going 3-0 in both its boys and girls duals.

9. Record crowd for UVU wrestling

Utah Valley University hosted fellow Big 12 rival Oklahoma State in front of a record crowd at the UCCU Event Center. Over 3,600 fans showed up to cheer the Wolverines on, but the home team was blanked by the No. 3 ranked Cowboys 37-0 as several Wolverine wrestlers missed the meet due to injuries.

8. Changing times

The high school state tournaments bucked some trends, both good and bad. For the first time since the 1980’s, Timpview put multiple wrestlers in the state finals as Conner Morris and Cael Richardson won silver medals. Timpview’s sister school Provo was blanked in the state tournament for the first time since 1989, and Wasatch failed to crown an individual state champion for the first time in that same time span. Three wrestlers seeking their fourth state title were denied, but Mountain View had twin brothers take state in Eli and Radi Stafford. Both were named Utah Valley Wrestlers of the Year by the Daily Herald.

7. LaMont’s successes

Taylor LaMont had a big year in wrestling. The former 4-time state champion for Maple Mountain and Wolverine redshirt junior not only reached All-American status at the NCAA wrestling tournament, but he also took fifth in the Under 23 World Championships as well as competing in the Olympic trials in Greco-Roman wrestling.

6. Newcomers shine

As states shut down high school athletics due to COVID-19, many high profile prep wrestlers moved to Utah and made an impact. Pleasant Grove’s Alex Emmer, who wrestled in New Mexico, won the 138-pound title for the Vikings over teammate Koda DeAtley, who relocated to Utah from Maryland. Israel Gonzalez, a move-in from Washington, also had a strong season placing fourth in 6A state. Emmer graduated but DeAtley and Gonzalez remain forces in the Viking program. Many other programs also were the fortunate recipients of move-ins who were starving for competitive opportunities but found opportunities to compete in Utah.

5. Mortimer sets the bar high

It was a banner year for American Leadership’s Sage Mortimer. She easily locked up a girls state title and was named as the Utah Girls Wrestler of the Year. Mortimer also was invited to wrestle in the Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor undercard matches where she won. In a postseason all-star event she beat the 3A state champion boy wrestler at 106 pounds. She then earned a chance to compete in the Olympic Trials, one of two high school girls to do such. As Mortimer started her college career at King University this winter, she has already been named as the National Wrestling Coaches Association Wrestler of the Month (for November) and was recently named the USA Wrestling Wrestler of the Week, the first female wrestler to earn both these distinctions.

4. Pandemic forces adjustments

COVID-19 also forced some interesting scheduling changes. Some meets early in the 2020-21 schedule were canceled altogether and some had to modify formats to one-day affairs and change bracket types to keep within the five matches a day allowance. This included the state tournaments, which were moved to high schools instead at the Utah Valley UCCU Event Center.

Corner Canyon hosted the 6A state tournament while Wasatch held the 5A state tournament. The Ross Brunson All-Star Dual and Rockwell Rumble went on and adapted to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

The All-Star Dual did three different time sessions starting in the mid-afternoon and rolling through the evening to help limit crowd size. Telos hosted the event instead of the Utah Valley UCCU Event Center.

Also, some weight classes had a mini-tournament where some wrestlers had multiple matches in a format change that was enjoyable to the fans. Wasatch’s River Wardle stood tall as the winner of the 138-pound weight class.

The Rockwell Rumble also relocated from the UCCU Event Center to the Provo Convention Center and wrestled on the Sunday and Monday of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. No team scores were kept as it wasn’t a sanctioned UHSAA event. The tournament attracted fewer Utah wrestlers then in past years, but that was offset by a large number of outstanding out-of-state grapplers hungry for competition.

3. Girls gets their own championships

Girls wrestling held their first official UHSAA sanctioned state championships. Girls programs were divided into the three classifications. Westlake won the 6A state title where the tournament was hosted at their school. The 1A, 2A, 3A, and 5A combined and Mountain View hosted that state tournament won by Maple Mountain. Mountain Crest won the 4A tournament.

2. UVU has banner year

Utah Valley had incredible success at the 2021 NCAA Wrestling tournament finishing 21st in the team race and crowning two All-Americans in Taylor LaMont (fifth place) and Demetrius Romero (sixth place). It was the first time in program history where the school had multiple All-Americans and multiple semifinalists. Four Wolverines competed at the NCAA tournament. Romero went into the tournament undefeated as he won the Big 12 championship.

1. Payson and Pleasant Grove earn state titles

Payson and Pleasant Grove brought home the gold trophies in the 5A and 6A state boys state championships respectively. Payson had one individual state champion (Aaron Garcia) but placed 14 wrestlers while Pleasant Grove crowned three individual champions (Alex Emmer, Ted Johnson, and Wyatt Dawe) and had 12 placers. It was the 10th state title for Viking head coach Brock Moore, tying him for second most in state history as a head coach.

Note: Last week, it was reported that girls wrestling has three classifications for the 2021-22 season. However, there will be four classifications for girls wrestling as 4A, 5A and 6A will have their own stand-alone classifications, while 1A, 2A and 3A will combine for a classification.

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