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Utah Valley prep wrestling rewind: Provo working to rebuild wrestling program

By Brian E. Preece - Herald correspondent | Jan 29, 2024
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Provo High’s Karson Haws (center) flanked by his parents PK and Rose Haws, is honored on Senior Night before the dual meet against Highland in Provo on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. . The meet featured Black Light technology.
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Provo's Trent Beesley (standing) watches the action at the dual meet against Highland in Provo on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. Beesley is a former Provo High wrestling state champ and joined the Provo High coaching staff in 2022. Also pictured is Gwendolyn Greer, head girls coach and Shawn Porter.
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Heber White of Provo (top) eventually pinned his Highland opponent during the dual meet against the Rams in Provo on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.

For some of the struggling or rebuilding wrestling programs, sometimes success and growth needs to be measured in different ways.

A generation ago Provo High was a top tier program in the state. In 1998, the Bulldog program produced three 4A state champions and three members of this team, including one of those state champs in Trent Beesley, make up the current coaching staff. Gerrit Greer, a past state placer for Provo High, serves as the boys head coach while another member of that team, Shawn Porter, is an assistant. Greer’s wife, Gwendolyn, who was a student athletic trainer during this time period, is the head girls wrestling coach.

Jimmy Tomasi won state titles at 285 pounds in 2019 and 2020 for the Bulldogs, while Josh LeBaron placed sixth in 2020. Those were the last Provo High male state placers. In fact, the next two years Provo failed to scratch a point at state and in 2021 didn’t qualify a single wrestler for the tourney. In girls wrestling, Katelyn Wolf was a two-time runner-up and remains the only female state placer for the Bulldogs.

Provo wrestling has seen struggles very similar to other inner city and less affluent schools along the Wasatch front as numbers of participating athletes has dropped off and other challenges beset these programs and schools.

Wrestling isn’t the only athletic program that has struggled at Provo High in recent years. A generation ago when Greer, Beesley and Porter were competing, Provo High’s overall athletic program was among the best, actually winning the 4A All-Sports Award from the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune for the 1999-2000 school year. Now it ranks toward the bottom.

The most recent Provo High administrations have made a deeper commitment to the athletic program and have looked to former Provo High alumni to lead some of these programs.

For example, Chris Collinsworth is the head basketball coach, Kirk Chambers is the head football coach, Jayson Manzanarez leads the soccer programs and Chris DeMartinini heads the golf programs.

But getting back to the glory years won’t be a quick fix and just using wins and losses as the only barometer to measure success and growth might not be the best measuring stick.

Provo High hosted Highland last Wednesday night. Provo did a “black light”, brought in a music DJ, and former two-time state placer and 1997 graduate Greg Wright did the announcing. It was a fun atmosphere, exactly what Provo head coach Gerrit Greer was looking for.

“Wrestling is a hard thing to sell sometimes,” Greer said. “As soft as kids are today, there are enough kids that really want something hard to do. I think if we can show them wrestling, if we can get it out there, there are going to be enough kids that really want to try it and push themselves. I am really using this as a recruiting tool.”

In the boys dual meet, Provo couldn’t overcome spotting Highland 24 points via forfeit and lost 39-36. But the positives were the Bulldogs won six of the nine varsity bouts wrestled, two of the three jayvee matches, and all three of the girl matches. So overall on the night, Provo went 11-4.

“Right now, we don’t have a strong team to really focus on the dual scores, “added Greer. “We focus on the wrestlers we have and how they are progressing and performing. Someday soon we’ll have a team that we can put up against whoever else and start looking at those team scores. But right now, it’s individually, how are we doing?”

Two Bulldog highlights were Christian (120 pounds) and Briton Beesley (126), sons of assistant coach Trent Beesley, who won both of their bouts with first period pins. Christian, a junior, qualified for state last year and won a match, while Briton is just a freshman.

Provo also got wins by pin by Lincoln Grow (106), James Knudsen (157), Angel Diaz (165) and Heber White (175). White also qualified for state in 2023 in his very first year of wrestling and won a match at the big tournament.

Provo’s female wrestlers dominated as Taliah Hew-Len (105), Lacy Greer (110) and Ella Reynolds (130) all won with first period pins. Hew-Len, a senior, recently won her weight class at a tournament hosted by Mountain View and appears to be right in the mix in the 4A ranks. Reynolds also went undefeated at the Bruin All-Girls Invite to win gold.

Boys Wrestling

In a very spirited meet last Thursday, Timpanogos edged rival Mountain View, 32-31.

Winners for Timpanogos were Simon Boyer (113), Conner Knudsen (132), Keagan Weaver (138), Parker Harvey (144), Fisher Jolley (150), Xander Carlson (165), Hyrum Alexander (190) and Jesse King (285).

Carlson defeated Mountain View freshman Hyrum Stafford 12-10 in a thriller, while Hyrum Alexander held off Angel Aragon 3-1 in two critical bouts that went Timpanogos’ way. The back and forth action, momentum shifts, and the stirring victory by Timpanogos thrilled Timberwolf head coach Alex Nicholes, who also had high praise for Mountain View and all the athletes involved.

“It was a great match from both teams,” said Nicholes. “Good environment, good sportsmanship and gritty wrestling. Duals like that are exactly how we generate excitement for wrestling. It was a win for everyone involved.”

Westlake nailed down the Region 3 dual meet title with a very solid 48-27 win over Pleasant Grove. These two teams will definitely vie for the 6A title with returning champion Layton.

Kaden Oldroyd (106), Corbyn Robison (113), Trey Thompson (120), Israel Borge (126), Parker Ballantyne (132), Zion Borge (138), Korbin Chucran (144), Josh Fish (150) and Brayden Robison (157) all won their bouts staking the Thunder to a 48-0 lead. Pleasant Grove showed its strength in the upper weights with wins by Bradlee Farrer (165), Jake Closson (175), Trevyn Gates (190), Kristopher McCoy (215) and Cayaen Smith (285).

5A Wasatch scored an impressive dual meet win over 4A Payson, 45-30.

The Wasps really showed their strength in the lower weights with Farrell Burman (113), Ryder Christensen (120), Ben Kohler (126), Max Richins (132), Daxton Bonner (138) and Jonah Ware (144) all winning their bouts. Henry Hanssen (157) clinched the win for the Wasps with a win by pin.

Payson’s biggest highlight was Zayden Cook pinning Wasatch’s Austin McNaughton at 285 pounds. McNaughton placed second in 5A state last year but the Lion grappler scored his second win on the season over the Wasp big man. Cook recently also went undefeated in nine bouts at the Battle for the Buckle hosted by Spanish Fork.

Big Time Performance of the Week: At 132 pounds, returning Timpanogos state placer Conner Knudsen met up with Mountain View’s Glade Harman, a 2-time 5A finalist. Both are in 4A this season and are among the top contenders. The result of this match proved critical in this 4A Region 8 match-up as Knudsen defeated Harman, 4-0. Going into this bout, Mountain View had staked itself out to a 16-4 lead but Knudsen’s win changed the momentum and was the first of four straight wins by the Timberwolves en route to a 32-31 team victory.

Match of the Week: Lone Peak and fellow Region 3 rival American Fork were in a very spirited dual where Lone Peak ended up on top, 34-33. At 285 pounds Patrick O’Bannion of Lone Peak won a wild match with American Fork’s Dallin Afu 10-8 to deliver the victory for the Knights.

Girls Wrestling

Two teams with state title aspirations met up when Cedar Valley hosted Wasatch this past Thursday. Cedar Valley earned a 48-33 win over the Wasps.

This dual meet only had one forfeit as both teams with good numbers filled up the weight classes with competitors.

The meet was a back-and-forth affair but Cedar Valley showed its strength in the upper weight divisions. When Wasatch’s Tyler Richter won by pin at 155 pounds, the Wasps went ahead of the Aviators, 33-30. But Madison Mayes (170), Yesmina Kava (190) and Rylyn Denney (235) delivered the victory for the Aviators with three straight wins by pin.

Big Time Performance of the Week: Though Westlake fell in its dual meet against Mountain Ridge 42-30, Celeste Detoles (135) made quick work of her opponent pinning the Sentinel grappler in just 20 seconds. Detoles has lost just once this season and is seeking her fourth 6A state title.

Match of the Week: It was the only match that went the distance in the dual between Wasatch and Cedar Valley but Wasatch’s Brinette Winegar (140) secured an 8-4 win over Cedar Valley’s Rhya Balmforth. The Wasp victory was an upset as Balmforth placed fourth in 5A last season and recently wrestled in the Ross Brunson All-Star Dual.


This upcoming week will feature the divisionals for the 4A through 6A classes. The girls will have their divisional tournaments on Wednesday January 31 and Thursday February 1, while the boys will hit the mats on February 2-3.

The 4A girls divisionals will be hosted at Cache Valley schools Green Canyon and Ridgeline, while the 5A divisional tournaments will be held right here in Utah County at Cedar Valley and Salem Hills. The 6A girls divisionals will be hosted by Syracuse and Westlake.

The 4A boys divisionals will be held at Green Canyon and Uintah, while the 5A divisionals will be hosted by Utah Valley schools Cedar Valley and Maple Mountain. As with the girls, the 6A boys will be at Syracuse and Westlake.

The divisionals, in theory, should be equal in strength as schools were assigned to their respective divisonals based on returning points from last year’s state tournament. For example, in 6A boys the returning state champions Layton, with the most returning points, will compete in the Divisional A tourney hosted by Syracuse, while Pleasant Grove and Westlake, which are second and third in returning points, will be competing at Westlake. The top eight wrestlers from each divisional will advance to the state tournament.

The 1A and 2A divisionals were held this past weekend and Telos Academy’s Jagger Farrow punched his ticket to the 1A boys state tournament by placing third at 106 pounds. Tintic had seven wrestlers qualify for state as Gordon Grimstead (113), Isaac Street (120), Tristan Lovell (126), Daren Johnson (170), Camden Johnson (165), Dalton Holden (175), Corbin Ahtherly (190) and Kenneth Severa (285) all placed in the top four. Lovell and Holden actually both made the championship match and placed second.

ALA qualified 11 wrestlers to the state tournament and finished seventh of eight teams at their 2A boys divisional tourney. The 1A and 2A state tournaments will be Feb. 9-10 in Richfield.


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