They are the trademark of success for the Payson wrestling program and also for Chayce Loveless, the 2017 Valley Wrestler of the Year.
Chayce Loveless is the third generation in his family to wrestle for Payson and the fourth Loveless brother to win an individual state title. His father, Jonny, was a state champion himself in 1990 and has been the youth and junior high coach of thousands of Payson wrestlers over three decades.
Chayce followed the footsteps of his brothers Brady, Riley, and Kaelen by winning a state title of his own.
In fact, the 195-pound title in won in February was his second straight state crown to go along with three straight trips to the state championship match. And Chayce has a younger brother, Brock, who placed fifth in state as a sophomore at 126 pounds, keeping the medals coming for the Loveless clan.
But Chayce has also wrestled with and has been coached by his first cousins. One of them, Jed, placed second in state at 145 pounds while Chayce won the title at 195 pounds.
Jed is a past state champion himself and a four-time state placer. Jed’s older brother Zach is also a past state two-time champion and mentored both Chayce and younger brother Jed as a Lion assistant coach this season.
Chayce Loveless finished 47-3 with two of his losses being at the Reno Tournament of Champions, where he finished fifth, and to Ashton Seely, a four-time 3A state champion from Juab, at the Rockwell Rumble.
But it should be noted that Loveless beat Seely two times, including a thrilling come-from-behind win at the All-Star dual.
Besides overcoming a quality opponent in Maple Mountain’s Parker Kay to win the 4A state title, Loveless had to overcome the emotions of some tough losses by teammates close to his heart.
Cousin Jed, who suffered a knee injury earlier in the season and wasn’t able to return to top form, was defeated by Wasatch’s Corbin Smith at the state meet, and then Wyatt Monroe fell by one point to Maple Mountain’s Brandyn Van Tassell in his championship bout at 170 pounds.
“Jed is not just a cousin to me, he’s a brother,” said Loveless. “And Wyatt was my workout partner all year long and one of my best friends.”
“It was devastating to see them not win,” Loveless added. “After Wyatt’s match, I had to leave the arena and try to gather myself.
“All the coaches (head coach Jeb Clark, his cousin and Jed’s brother Zach, and his brother Kaelen) gave me a talking to and said to go out and wrestle my match and not think about Jed and Wyatt.’”
Still, Loveless’ father, Jonny, noticed that when Chayce took the mat for his last high school match he had “tears in his eyes,” but his son was focused well enough to dominate Kay to win by a major decision, 8-0.
Clark took note of the work ethic and willingness to learn Loveless showed while in the program for four years.
“His best attribute is his ability to improve and get better,” Clark said. “He watches film daily, he is very coachable, and motivated to get better.
“Chayce did not enter the program as the best wrestler, but he left as the best. I will miss coaching him.”
Clark also noted that Loveless was a team-first athlete.
“Whenever our team needed a boost in a dual or tournament, it was usually Chayce that gave it to us. In the wrestling room, he is our best driller and most intense wrestler,” Clark said.
Loveless has his own important take on Payson wrestling.
“It about family and tradition. I really wanted the team be close.”
Loveless delivered a state title ,and his leadership helped the Lions finish second in the 4A team standings.
Though the Loveless brothers (and their cousins) have won plenty of state medals and individual state titles, taking state is not the most important thing to Chayce’s father, Jonny.
“It’s not about wins and losses, it’s about developing maturity, turning boys into young men and that’s what wrestling is able to instill in these kids,” he said.
Hard work, setting goals and reaching them, caring about your teammates above yourself and leadership were the qualities that defined this year’s Valley Wrestler of the Year, Chayce Loveless.
It wasn’t all that long ago that American Fork senior guard Taylor Moeaki — the 2017 Valley Player of the Year for girls basketball — was just a girl watching her aunt, Keilani Moeaki Unga, playing basketball at BYU.
“When she was playing at BYU, we would just always be at the Marriott Center,” Moeaki said. “There were so many games and I just remember looking up to her so much. I remember having that in my mind of wanting to play college basketball and knowing it was something I could do. Having her help me along the way has been awesome.”
The roles have reversed as Unga is an assistant coach for the Mountain View girls basketball team but she still made the effort to go see her niece in action for the Cavemen as often as possible.
“I was happy and proud of her,” Unga said. “To work on something so hard, applying it to your game and then actually seeing it being rewarded, I was just so proud of her. She was a lot more advanced than I was.”
Moeaki said having Unga’s support helped her develop into the basketball player she is now.
“She was always helping me, bringing me to pickup games with her and her friends,” Moeaki said. “That would help me a lot. She would always be able to give me tips throughout the week or after games.”
Unga, however, said Moeaki’s drive was something that came from her.
“All summer long she dedicated herself to workouts, to going and shooting at the gym,” Unga said. “Even when we were having family get-togethers when we would go to the gym and try and play horse or something, she and my brother (John) were in their own little world having a workout on the other court. She put in so much time.”
Unga watched Moeaki develop into an incredible talent, including seeing her lead American Fork in scoring in each of her first three years (10.8 points per game in 2013-14, 12.3 ppg in 2014-15 and 15.5 ppg in 2015-16).
But heading into her senior season this winter, Caveman head coach Corey Clayton and the American Fork staff introduced a new style. They started substituting five players every couple of minutes and put an emphasis on putting pressure on opponents.
“I think it was difficult on Taylor for a couple of games,” Clayton said. “She never let me know but I had a feeling that she wasn’t that enthusiastic about it at first. But she’s the type of player who is going to be fine no matter what style we were playing.”
Unga said that when she saw the plan in action in the first game — a loss to Alta — with Moeaki coming in and out, she wondered what the thought process was.
“I caught the second half and I saw they were down,” Unga said. “I definitely had my thoughts about it because when you are down against a good team you should always have your best players in. But for Taylor to just believe — she always said it would just work out.”
Moeaki explained that she had her own doubts at the beginning.
“It was really different and I was definitely unsure about it at first,” Moeaki said. “But you had to trust in your coaches and your teammates. Giving it a chance was the biggest part, I think, and then realizing how effective it could be.”
Moeaki said that she and the rest of the Cavemen realized the potential early on in the year.
“After our first game against Alta, which we lost, once we figured some things out pretty quickly we realized that it could be so hard to defend,” Moeaki said. “We realized in practice how much we hated playing against it. You realized it would give other teams a lot of trouble.”
Even though she might have played fewer minutes, Moeaki played on attack on both offense and defense. She upped her scoring even more, averaging 18.6 points per game.
“Trying to play your hardest on the court but knowing you were going off at a certain time was motivating for all of us,” Moeaki said. “We wanted to leave it all out there.”
The result was wins — and lots of them.
American Fork didn’t lose again the rest of the season and Moeaki said that all of the postseason awards and recognitions pale in comparison to winning the 5A state championship.
“It’s been so awesome but none of it can compare to what we accomplished as a team,” Moeaki said. “I have to give all the credit to my teammates and coaches because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
She said the victory over Viewmont in the title game was almost surreal.
“It was something that our whole team had worked so hard for and dreamed of,” Moeaki said. “It almost seemed unattainable until the very last game, the very last minutes, when it hit you that it just happened. It was an amazing feeling.”
Although her skills are impressive, it’s likely that large universities couldn’t see past her 5-foot-7 frame. She said that was a little frustrating but that she’s thrilled to continue her basketball career at Dixie State.
“I have a really great relationship with Trailblazer head coach JD Gustin and the other coaches down there,” Moeaki said. “My recruiting experience was really positive and I think everything happens for a reason. Dixie State is where I’m supposed to be.”
Clayton said that Moeaki’s development will depend on what position the Trailblazers want her to play.
“If their coach sees her as a point guard in a traditional system, she’s going to have to work on her floor vision and her passing,” he said. “If they have her be a No. 2 guard, she will have to continue to work on her 3-point shooting. But the thing about her that is so great is she knows what her deficiencies are in her game and that’s what she spends her time working on.”
When she’s not playing basketball, Moeaki said she also enjoys reading and spending time with her family. She also plans to serve an LDS mission after her freshman year.
She said she would advise a young player getting ready to play high school basketball to be in the moment.
“Don’t worry about what is going to happen or what has happened,” Moeaki said. “It can be about a game or a possession or about everything. It’s something my coaches have stressed and it has really helped me. It’s about enjoying every second of it.”
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.
SPRINGVILLE —For Andrew Slack, the best part about playing in the football trenches was to have the chance to blow up an opposing linebacker on a running play, and one of the things he enjoyed the most at defensive end was to put the hurt on a quarterback just when he got too comfortable in the pocket.
They call fouls for that sort of thing on the basketball court. Basketball is much more of a finesse sport — unless, of course, you are assigned to guard Slack, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound physical presence who patrolled the paint for Springville’s basketball team.
Slack gave the Red Devils the inside to their outside game. If you were assigned to guard him, you were likely to be in foul trouble and in need of help.
Springville beat Olympus 81-79 in double overtime of the state 4A championship game in March. Knocking off the defending 4A state champs took a series of clutch plays from several players, but for his overall body of work for the course of the season, the Daily Herald has chosen Slack as Valley Player of the Year.
“He was so valuable to our team. He did so many different things for us, from scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership,” said Springville coach Justin Snell. “I think the best way to consider how much he meant to us is how we did last year when he missed most of the year with an injury.”
Slack finished his senior season averaging 15.0 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Springville opened the tournament with a pair of one-point wins over Skyline and Woods Cross before beating Hillcrest 57-45 to set the stage for a classic title game that left Springville celebrating its first state basketball since 1958.
Springville was 7-14 last year and finished 5-7 in region play. This year the Red Devils won the 4A title with a 21-5 overall record. They also shared the Region 8 title with Maple Mountain.
There were several factors in Springville’s dramatic improvement, but none more obvious than how, with Slack in the lineup, the Red Devils were able to get the ball inside to Slack first, so opposing teams were forced to run other defenders at him, which opened the floor for the rest of the team.
Whether it was facing a single defender, or being double- or triple-teamed, Slack still had a field goal percentage of 57 percent.
Slack had a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) against Skyline in the first round. He scored 15 points and had seven rebounds against Woods Cross and had 10 points and 11 rebounds against Hillcrest.
He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the championship game.
“It’s (winning a state championship) been a dream come true, everyone dreams about winning it in your senior year and this is something we’ve been dreaming about since we were young, so to get it done was really awesome,” Slack said. “I felt like I did a lot of the dirty work and with some of the guys, who didn’t play much last year, I’ve tried to be a good leader for them in the biggest moments of the season.”
Slack plans on serving an LDS Church mission when he graduates and when he returns he will go to Weber State to play football.
Until then he knows that he’s done something most high school players never get the chance to do — go out on top.
SPRINGVILLE — In Payton Kelepolo’s junior year he rushed for 410 yards and six touchdowns. He often spelled senior running back Scott Averett, who got the bulk of the carries.
Watching isn’t Kelepolo’s thing.
Winners want the ball and they are willing to risk failing for the chance to capture a feeling of euphoria that only winning can bring.
“I didn’t like standing on the sidelines watching, that wasn’t too much fun, but it motivated me to work harder and get stronger for this year,” Kelepolo said. “After the season ended last year I knew I had to work harder and do everything I could on my part so I could have the best possibility year for myself and my team.”
Kelepolo’s determination helped Springville reach the state 4A championship game. He finished the season with 1,633 yards rushing (6.51 yards per carry). In the years Springville has participated in football, only one Red Devil (Trevyn Smith) has ever rushed for more yards in a season.
“We saw some glimpses of how good he was last year. In our game against East last year (quarterfinals) he was our best running back,” said Springville coach Willy Child. “He believed that if he worked hard in the off-season and got stronger that he would have a great year and that’s exactly what he did.”
Kelepolo scored 21 touchdowns on the ground. He had 167 yards receiving and scored a touchdown on a pass reception, too.
As a result, the Daily Herald has named hin Valley Player of the Year in football.
“I’m honored, thank you so much,” Kelepolo said when he heard of the honor. “Honestly, I have to credit our offensive line for any success I had. All of the good games I had were because of the job they did. The coaching staff believed in me and have helped me be successful.”
Springville was 7-0 but still needed to beat Salem Hills in the final week of Region 8 play to clinch the region title. Kelepolo responded by racking up a career-high 240 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 49-14 win.
The Red Devils opened the playoffs with wins over Orem and Woods Cross to reach the semifinals, where they met Alta, a team that was expected to play East in the finals.
Kelepolo then came up big again. He had 238 yards rushing and scored a touchdown in a 42-14 win over the Hawks that sent Springville to the championship game.
“Our philosophy is to be physical and run the ball first and play great defense. He’s a physical back, who is unselfish and he’s one of strongest kids in the program,” Child said. “He’s very good inside the red zone and is also explosive enough to break off big plays for us. He’s also been a great pass blocker for us.”
Kelepolo thought he would end up playing on the defensive line like his father (Everett) did when he played at Southern Utah, but Payton had a nose for the ball and combined the physical attributes on defense in a running back and that turned out to be a winning combination.
Now that his high school career is over, Kelepolo said he plans on serving a church mission after he graduates and when he returns he hopes to pick up where he left off, but he knows that walking away from the game may leave him in another situation where he watches on the sideline and waits for his chance to prove himself at the college level.
However, he knows that when he watches and waits for a chance to play, his drive of determination will only get stronger, leading him to work even harder. That’s a lesson learned that he can carry with him — along, like as not, with some defenders into the end zone.
Some years the best high school girls soccer player in Utah Valley is a phenomenal scorer who can dazzle with her ability to get the ball in the net.
Sometime she is a great passer, someone who moves the ball with precision and skill.
Other times she is an incredible defender who consistently shuts down opposing offenses.
This year, however, the top player in Utah Valley has all of those traits.
Timpview junior midfielder Ashton Brockbank stepped forward as the catalyst for the Thunderbirds as she helped her team win its first state championship in girls soccer, which is why the Daily Herald is honored to name her the 2016 Prep Rally Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“I was shocked,” Brockbank said. “My coach told me (about the award) and I was just like, wow, that is so cool. It’s awesome.”
Timpview head coach Eric Brady said that Brockbank is his ideal soccer player.
“She’s coachable, she’s a leader by example and she’s so consistent,” Brady said. “There are no ups and downs with her. She is what every coach wants out of a player. She’s phenomenal. She has no enemies — except for maybe other teams but even then they can’t not like her because she is such a great sport.”
He explained that Brockbank has a diverse skillset that makes her extremely versatile on the field.
“She has every tool,” Brady said. “She can go left or right, she can make a run and finish, she tackles, she heads the ball, she makes short passes and long passes, and she reads the game so well. She runs forever, back, forward and side to side. She’s also shown the development of her mental stamina. She’s a girl you can have out there most of game and literally she doesn’t drop a level.”
Brockbank said that her abilities and love of the game took some time to develop.
“I played recreation soccer but I wasn’t really competitive until I was about nine-years-old,” she said. “I had a lot of fun on my first team. We’d do really well and I think the competitiveness of each game made me want to work harder and get better and keep progressing in the sport.”
She credited a lot of her success to being willing to spend time to improve outside of structured practices.
“You go to practice every day but putting time in at home is the most important thing,” Brockbank said. “You are still gaining more skills and I think the harder you work, the better you can get.”
She said one of her favorite soccer memories was playing varsity as a freshmen with her older sister McKenzie. The Thunderbirds had a great season and ended up making it to the semifinals.
Ashton said that when Timpview won its semifinal match against Skyline, McKenzie said she was really jealous.
“She was like, wow, you are going to play at Rio Tinto Stadium,” Ashton said. “That was her dream. She told me that I had to go out and work hard, that it would pay off — and it did.”
It certainly wasn’t an easy path to that hallmark moment for Ashton and the Thunderbirds, who had ups and downs during the 2016 season.
“We kept getting better, each practice, each game,” Ashton said. “We learned new things. I think going into state we had the mindset that we wanted to win and move on.”
Ashton couldn’t help but get a big grin on her face as she talked about the dramatic quarterfinal win at Bonneville, one of the highlights of her soccer career.
“It was crazy,” Ashton said. “That Bonneville game was probably the greatest game ever because we were down and then we were able to come back in the last few minutes. We pushed through because our team had heart. No one ever gave up. It was a really great experience that we were able to come back and win. That game set the tone for us. Once we won that game, we knew we could do it.”
She said the experience of making it to the title game was amazing — but watching the final seconds tick down with a 2-0 lead over East was even better.
“We all tell ourselves to keep going until the whistle blows because the game is not over until then,” Brockbank said. “I was just giving it my all and so was the team. The team running out onto the field, everyone hugging each other, our student section was so happy and it was just so cool because we made history with it being our first time ever winning state.”
Brady credited the junior for being such a big part of the Timpview run, particularly because of her ability to track the ball in the air.
“As soon as the ball is off the foot, she is tracking it with her head,” Brady said. “Several times it was going towards our goal dangerously and she leaps up in air above everyone — running towards goal — and was able to head it out and away. You don’t always see players on the men’s national team with that ability. That defines how valuable she is. Set pieces are so huge and every time you give up a corner, you grit your teeth as a coach. With Ashton in there, I sleep so much better. I can’t remember getting scored on on a set piece. Basically she ate up everything.”
The other thing Brady loves about Brockbank is how easy she makes things look.
“She plays with a quiet elegance,” he said. “That sometimes gets her overlooked because she’s not as flashy but plays with such grace and quiet confidence.”
The Timpview head coach explained that a lot of that is just part of who Ashton is.
“She always sees the positive and is never negative to anyone,” Brady said. “She readily smiles, she gets my jokes, and she’s always ready to laugh. Everyone respects her because she is so genuine, such a hard-working, nice person.”
Ashton said she also likes to ski, playing different sports, camping and outdoors as well as enjoying writing.
She’s still not sure what will be her next step after high school but she has another year to figure it out. She said she’s also excited to get a shot at a title repeat.
“It’s going to be really cool,” Ashton said. “It will be awesome because I’ll be a senior and get to watch the girls develop as the year goes on. Our team will be really good but as a senior the girls look up to you. I think we’ll accomplish a lot next year.”