In its second year of existence, Skyridge has made a big splash in the athletic scene. The football team placed second in the 5A playoffs while its baseball, golf, and volleyball programs have placed high in the state tournaments and/or won region titles.
As we turn to this year's winter season, the Falcons want to make a statement in 5A and Region 8 wrestling.
"For our second year we have a lot of kids that are really working hard," said Skyridge head coach Lyle Mangum. "I am very proud of the way they have accepted the challenge to push themselves. Our team is made up of mostly underclassman still but we do have some good seniors, but a lot of juniors and sophomores."
Last year, the Falcons took fifth in the sectional tournament and qualified 10 wrestlers to state with seven of those returning for the 2017-18 campaign.
Hadley Cowan placed sixth in state for the Falcons, becoming the school's first state placer. Jayden Adamson (113 pounds), Colby Eastmond (132), Alex Weaver (145), James Hornberger (152), Drake Josephsen (160), Trace Muse (170), Berklee Barlow (182), Ernest Barlow (195) and Ben Read (220) are some of the other Falcon wrestlers to watch.
Mangum knows that a tough league awaits with the likes of last year's 4A state champions Wasatch, Maple Mountain (third place in 4A) and Timpanogos (8th place).
"In region, obviously it will be strong with all of the teams being very good in wrestling," Mangum said. "I think Wasatch is very deep and extremely well coached, Maple Mountain always is right there with some great kids and the rest of the region will be fighting to keep progressing with them."
Wasatch will be the team to beat and already made a statement by winning the prestigious Layton Invitational Tournament this past weekend. The Wasps return state champions Stockton O'brien (138), Zak Kohler (145) and DJ Cohen (220).
Maple Mountain just placed second in the very tough Millard Ironman Duals and will be led by returning state champion Brandyn VanTassell. Other Golden Eagle grapplers to eyeball are Cole Patterson (126) and freshmen Cooper Cox (106).
Timpanogos has Holland Knudsen (145/152) who placed second in state last year to lead the Timberwolf attack. Provo has Ben Badonie (160) who placed sixth while Springville's top wrestler will be Iloa Simote (220) who recently won the gold medal at the Skyhawk showdown. Aaron Mele (145) and Cordon Nuttal (152) are two other top Red Devil wrestlers.
Springville is one program hoping to improve this year, but head coach Dave Valeti knows of the challenges that lie ahead.
"We face an uphill battle in both region and state competitions but embrace the challenge," said Valeti. "Obviously in region and in state we have Wasatch, who everyone is chasing, and Maple Mountain who are perennial contenders, and look to be very tough again."
Timpview will be compete in Region 7, which won't quite have the stellar competition of Region 8 but does boast solid programs like Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Jordan. The Thunderbirds have Kody Keith (113) who is currently ranked in the top six according to USA Wrestling Utah.
Layton won the 5A title last year and moves up to 6A as does its top challenger Pleasant Grove. Based on returning wrestlers, the Vikings are ranked number one in the new classification. The Vikings return state champion Maika Tauteoli (220). The Vikings placed fifth at the Millard Ironman event but did beat Maple Mountain in a dual meet. Zeke Kelley (113) turned heads with a 9-1 finish at the Iron Man Kelley's cousin Oakley Ridge (126) will hope to get top of the podium this year for the Vikings.
Two programs that want to make a statement in Region 4 are American Fork and Westlake. American Fork finished third in in 2015 and had another top ten finish last season. Enthusiasm is high for the Cavemen program.
"American Fork will have a great group of wrestlers coming back," said Cavemen head coach Eric Spencer, who incidentally is a Pleasant Grove alumnus and former state champion.
Spencer is also high on freshmen Nate Bartholomew (106) and Hayden Wilson (126). Wilson will give added depth to this weight class as Rhett Miner, a returning state placer, mans that position. Joshua Bartholomew (145) is another returning state place winner for American Fork while Elijah Wilson (160) brings more experience to the Cavemen line-up. And a move-in from Wyoming named Logan Schofield (220) will help American Fork in the upper weights as he supports Ian Filoso, a returning state placer for the Cavemen at 285 pounds.
Westlake also hopes to turn some heads and really make a push for a top five finish in 2017-18 and the benefits of one of the top youth programs are now reaching the high school ranks.
"Our youth program is growing. It was the 8th largest in the country last year based on USA wrestling membership," said Thunder head coach Cody Burdett. "Coach (Jeff) Newby is building a great program. Coach Guy Burdett, is also helping the junior high by coaching the 7-9 grade practices, so he is prepping them for high school."
One of the top freshmen in the state will be Jacob Finlinson (113) and the Thunder grappler could be a real contender this season.
Westlake does return eight wrestlers with state tournament experience. Kagan Oliver (120) and Izaya Valdez (113) and Calvin Bishop (132) are returning state placers for the Thunder. Other returning qualifiers include Caden Dunn (106), Phillip Bachtell (113), Cayden Jorgensen (120), Austin Petty (126), and Ethan Shunn (160).
Burdett is enthusiastic about his team feeling it could be a breakthrough season for the program.
"This is my seventh year in the program as the head coach and things are really looking up, stated Burdett. "We have awesome support from our administration, especially our principal Gary Twitchell, a former wrestler himself."
Max Anson (132) will be a wrestler to watch out for in the Lone Peak program.
Besides American Fork, Lehi, Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove and Westlake, Bingham will competitor in a very tough region. The Miners are led by two-time state champion Cole Moody (182).
4A could be the most intriguing classification this year in wrestling also possibly the best and/or deepest.
Uintah has staked its place as the favorite with a strong second place showing to Wasatch at the Layton Invitational but also doing well at that event was Payson who finished in the top five. Wyatt Monroe (182) will be one of the Lion wrestlers to watch as will teammates Cole Jensen (106) and Brock Loveless (138).
Besides Payson, Salem Hills could be a top-five challenger and hopes to push the Lion program in Region 10. The Skyhawks recently took second at their tournament. Justin Martin (182) placed second in state for the Skyhawks last season while Chyler Zeeman, a state placer last year, won the 145-pound division at the Skyhawk Showdown.
One of the top wrestlers for Spanish Fork will be Layne Shepherd (106) who won the Skyhawk Showdown in convincing fashion. Mountain View will be led by Gabe Terry (132), a two-time state placer and finalist in 2016, while Orem has football star Cooper Legas manning the 195-pound class as a returning state placer. Lehi's Mitchell Jimayandori (132) will be a wrestler to watch as the Pioneers will compete in 4A Region 10.
ALA Notes: After a two-year hiatus the Eagles have reestablished its program with former Box Elder state champion and UVU wrestler Tucker Ray at the helm. The Eagles hope to take flight with the likes of Sage and Quenton Mortimer, a sister-brother wrestling tandem at 106 and 126 pounds respectively. Sage, an incoming freshmen, placed second to Shepherd at the Skyhawk Showdown while Quenton is a returning state finalist who came to ALA from the Maple Mountain program. By the way Sage is considered one of the top female wrestlers in the country.
Meanwhile, the Eagle head coach is excited about bringing wrestling back to the charter school.
"We are just excited to get on the mat. We are very young team and have a lot of growing to do," stated Ray.
The Eagles will compete in 3A wrestling in Region 14 with Juab, who just recently won the Millard Iron Man Duals, and can make a legitimate claim as one of the best programs in the state regardless of classification. Also in this league will be traditional wrestling powerhouse Delta.