Due to COVID-19 restrictions, high school sites and the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield will host the different state tournaments.
Wasatch will host the 5A tournament on Thursday, Feb. 18. The 6A tournament will be held at Corner Canyon on Friday, Feb. 19. Richfield will host the 1A/2A, 3A, and 4A tournaments on consecutive days Thursday through Saturday, February 18-20.
Besides the changes in venue, COVID-19 has brought a number of move-ins to the state because many surrounding states aren’t having high school athletics at all or delayed the start of their seasons. And many of these move-ins are top level wrestlers that will contend for gold medals.
It should also be noted since the state tournaments are one-day events and national high school rules limits the number of bouts a wrestler can have to five, if wrestlers lose in the first round or quarterfinals, the best they can place is fifth versus third in past years. The semifinal losers will battle for third place. This places more of a premium for grapplers to win their first two matches.
In recent years Layton has had the star power crowning the most individual state champions while Pleasant Grove has overwhelmed the field to claim team honors. But in 2021, expect Pleasant Grove to have both the star power and the depth to crush the competition.
The Vikings qualified 26 wrestlers to the state tournament and crowned six divisional champions while another six made the championship finals. This state tourney could see a record-breaking team performance for Pleasant Grove.
Three Viking wrestlers are ranked first in 6A including Jacob Carson (113 pounds), Alex Emmer (138) and Wyatt Dawe (285). Emmer and Dawe could meet their own teammates in the championship finals as Koda DeAtley (138) and Kort Wilkinson (285) both have had stellar seasons.
Zeke Kelley (152) was a 2018 state finalist and has placed in state the past three years. He hopes to make the top of the podium, though tough grapplers in Layton’s Isaac Fisher and Davis’ Macclaine Percival stand in his way. Other top Viking wrestlers to eyeball are Israel Gonzalez (120), Max Benson (126), Ted Johnson (182) and Gabe Yocum (195), all very capable of making the championship finals.
Westlake would like to make a statement by taking home a trophy. In reality, the Thunder will be battling programs like Davis, Fremont, Layton, and Syracuse for second place.
Westlake’s Jacob Finlinson goes for his fourth state title but incredibly will go into the state tournament not as the favorite to win the weight class as West’s Drew Lang beat him in the Divisional A tournament final. The two wrestlers met last year for the state title with the Thunder grappler beating Lang in sudden victory overtime.
Breydon Robison (106) is a top-ranked wrestler in his weight class and Tucker Butler (145) is another Thunder grappler with state title aspirations.
“We will take 17 boys to state,” said Westlake head coach Cody Burdett. “We are looking to place the highest place ever (in school history) and come home with a team trophy.”
Skyridge has three wrestlers with realistic state title dreams with Joshua Millward (145), Mahkyi Smith (160) and Cayaen Smith (170). Mahkyi Smith is a sophomore but took second in state last year while younger brother Cayaen is just a freshman. Millward, a junior, has made two previous trips to the championship match coming up just short by a single point in both bouts.
American Fork’s Dallan Hunsaker (120) is a returning state champion but will have to beat another returning state champion most likely to claim gold in Layton’s Quade Smith. Lone Peak sophomore Cooper Mumford (220) looks strong and won the Divisional B title and has just one loss on the season.
Last year, the 5A tournament provided a great team race that went down to the championship finals before Wasatch bested Payson for the prize. The Lions want to turn the tables in 2021, and Box Elder doesn’t want to be forgotten either.
Payson crushed the competition at the Divisional A tourney with six champion wrestlers, while Wasatch won the Divisional B tournament with Box Elder trailing by 33.5 points.
But if one looks a bit deeper, Box Elder crowned six champions to just one for Wasatch suggesting that with a tougher field of wrestlers at state, the gap could be closed a bit. Still, Payson, with its 24 state qualifiers, stakes itself as the team to beat.
Payson head coach Jeb Clark is still very wary of the quality and tradition of his rivals.
“You can’t help but know that Box Elder is going to show up with that star power and Wasatch always brings their best to state,” said Clark. “The whole attitude (for us) is to have fun and put points on the board. If you can put points on the board and have fun while doing it, that’s what it’s all about.”
The 5A field boasts a bevy of returning state champions with Mountain RIdge’s Kysion Garcia (113) and Mark Rausch (170). Box Elder’s Bridger Ricks (120) and Lucas Cochran (195) have each won a pair of state titles. Payson’s Layne Shepherd (126), Maple Mountain’s Andrew Jensen (182), Viewmont’s Marcus Owens-Espinoza (160), East’s Sau Tafisi (220), and of course, Wasatch 3-time state champion River Wardle (138) all know what it takes to get to the top of the podium.
Utah County wrestlers Deegan Palmer (Payson, 132), Radi Stafford (Mountain View, 182), Elijah Stafford (Mountain View, 220), and Cael Richardson (Timpview, 220) were state finalists last season. Wasatch’s Heath Clyde is also a returning finalist and will go 120 pounds this year, while Maple Mountain’s Brock Morris (126) was a finalist two seasons ago. Add in returning state finalists Moses Espinoza-Owens (152) and Alex Zesiger (170) of Viewmont and Caleb Marx (170) of Box Elder to this incredible mix of grappling talent.
Beyond these elite wrestlers, there are lots of other talented wrestlers and newcomers. Payson has two freshmen contenders in Colton Theobald (120) and Landon Shurtleff (160). Springville has a freshman sensation in Tevita Valeti (160), who placed second in the divisional tourney.
Spanish Fork’s Clayton Orton (145) won the Divisional B tournament and desires a state title. Wasatch’s Mason Hulme (195) is an Arizona move-in that wants to help his new team claim a team title by penetrating through the bracket.
The deepest weight is at 220-pounds. Timpanogos’ athletic Breydon Jorgensen, a returning state placer, wants to upset the apple cart and is likely to meet Elijah Stafford in one quarterfinal with the winner taking on Divisional B champion Carson Lancaster. Also at this weight, a possible match-up looms between East’s Tafisi and Timpview’s Richardson. This pair of wrestlers battled for the state championship last year, but Tafisi was defeated by Lancaster at divisionals throwing him on the same side of the bracket as the Timpview star. Payson’s Braxton Monroe, a returning state placer, wants to derail this semifinal match-up, as he will likely meet Tafisi in the quarterfinals.
Another loaded weight class will be 182 pounds. Maple Mountain’s Jensen and Mountain View’s Radi Stafford seem to be on a collision course for a possible rematch of their 170-pound final from last season. But both will have to deal with a slew of other contenders including Corbin Carlson of Timpanogos and Woods Cross’ Christian Smoot for Stafford on the top side of the bracket, while Jensen’s main challengers in the bottom side of the bracket will be Timpview’s Conner Morris or Wasatch’s Kolby Cluff.
At 285 pounds, look for a possible epic match-up between Mountain View’s Chris Esparza and Box Elder’s Kellen Collier, who along with teammate Cochran boast undefeated records. Collier placed third in state last year and gave Provo’s Jimmy Tomasi his only loss on the season. But in the state semifinals, the Bulldog grappler turned the tables to defeat the Bee big man on his way to claiming his second state title. Now Collier wants gold as does Esparza.
Juab looks good to repeat as team champion while Morgan and Emery should battle for the silver trophy. American Leadership Academy (ALA) has a great chance to be in the top five.
Andrew Fox (106) is a divisional champion for the Eagles. Justyn Mitchell (195) looks to make history as the school’s first 4-time state placer. Junior Lukus Carrillo (138) took state two years ago and hopes to make a return trip to the top of the podium. Other top ALA grapplers include Hyrum Morley (152) and Cale Miner (160).
The 1A and 2A tournaments were held in Richfield Friday and Saturday. Beaver won the 2A tournament as Millard was the runner-up. Panguitch was the 1A team champion and Piute was second. Tintic placed sixth in the 1A division as Jaden Kriegh brought home the silver medal at 220 pounds.
6A Individual Finalist Predictions106 pounds: Breydon Robison (Westlake) vs. Jace Lemons (Layton)
113 pounds: Jacob Carson (Pleasant Grove) vs. Tyler Vivanco (Corner Canyon)
120 pounds: Dallan Hunsaker (American Fork) vs. Quade Smith (Layton)
126 pounds: Gage Odgen (Herriman) vs. Brigham Bagley (Corner Canyon)
132 pounds: Drew Lang (West) vs. Jacob Finlinson (Westlake)
138 pounds: Alex Emmer (Pleasant Grove) vs. Koda DeAtley (Pleasant Grove)
145 pounds: Joshua Millward (Skyridge) vs. Tucker Butler (Westlake)
152 pounds: Maclaine Percival (Davis) vs. Zeke Kelley (Pleasant Grove)
160 pounds: Mahkyi Smith (Skyridge) vs. Jordan Faifai (Syracuse)
170 pounds: Cayaen Smith (Skyridge) vs. Kam Moss (Corner Canyon)
182 pounds: Cesar Ubico (Hunter) vs. Austin McMillan (Herriman)
195 pounds: Mason Rigby (Davis) vs. Talmage Carman (Herriman)
220 pounds: Nolan Kiser (Fremont) vs. Cooper Mumford (Lone Peak)
285 pounds: Wyatt Dawe (Pleasant Grove) vs. Kort Wilkinson (Pleasant Grove)
5A Individual Finalist Predictions:106 pounds: Aaron Garcia (Payson) vs. Jacob Waddouphs (Farmington)
113 pounds: Parker Hayes (Wasatch) vs. Kysion Garcia (Mountain Ridge)
120 pounds: Ethan Boulton (Payson) vs. Bridger Ricks (Box Elder)
126 pounds: Layne Shepherd (Payson) vs. Brock Morris (Maple Mountain)
132 pounds: Deegan Palmer (Payson) vs. Ryan Bullough (Payson)
138 pounds: Andrew Weakley (Springville) vs. River Wardle (Wasatch)
145 pounds: Conway Christensen (Murray) vs. Clayton Orton (Spanish Fork)
152 pounds: Charlie Fassold (Wasatch) vs. Sam May (Farmington)
160 pounds: Jaden Stange (Mountain Ridge) vs. Marcus Espinoza-Owens (Viewmont)
170 pounds: Alex Zesiger (Viewmont) vs.Caleb Marx (Box Elder)
182 pounds: Radi Stafford (Mountain View) vs. Andrew Jensen (Maple Mountain)
195 pounds: Mason Hulme (Wasatch) vs. Lucas Cochran (Box Elder)
220 pounds: Cael Richardson (Timpview) vs. Elijah Stafford (Mountain View)
285 pounds: Chris Esparza (Mountain View) vs. Kellen Collier (Box Elder)
6A Team Predictions: 1. Pleasant Grove 2. Layton 3. Westlake 4. Fremont 5. Davis 6.Syracuse 7. Corner Canyon 8. Skyridge 9. American Fork 10. Herriman.
5A Team Predictions: 1. Payson 2. Wasatch 3. Box Elder 4. Mountain View 5. Viewmont 6. Mountain Ridge 7. Maple Mountain 8. Farmington 9. Spanish Fork. 10. Timpanogos.
4A Team Predictions: 1. Uintah 2. Mountain Crest 3. Bear River 4.Ridgeline 5. Green Canyon 6. Desert Hills 7. Snow Canyon 8. Crimson Cliffs 9. Pine View 10. Stansbury.
3A Team Predictions: 1. Juab 2. Morgan 3. Emery 4. Richfield 5. ALA. 6. Delta 7. South Sevier 8. South Summit 9. Union 10. North Sanpete.