The Pleasant Grove wrestling team is phenomenal in numerous ways, including technique, work ethic, character, dedication and depth.
Drama? Well, not so much.
The Vikings didn’t allow any of their 6A competitors to come anywhere close to sniffing an upset in the state wrestling tournament, closing out their decisive win in the finals at the UCCU Center in Orem on Thursday.
Pleasant Grove won its eighth title in nine years as it finished with 274.5 points, far ahead of second-place Layton (191.5 points).
“It’s glorious,” Viking senior wrestler Oakley Ridge said. “That’s our theme this year. We wanted to go out and have fun. Whether we won or lost, it was all about character.”
Ridge and Pleasant Grove senior teammate Jake Richardson were the two Vikings who earned individual titles — and in fitting fashion they did it without much drama.
Ridge needed just 1:08 to pin his opponent, Skyridge’s Mahkyi Smith, in the 145-pound championship.
“I knew I had to do my thing,” Ridge said. “I needed to get to my offense and do what I do. I got a cross-face cradle, which is something I’ve been doing my whole life. It paid off. Winning state feels amazing. I’ve wrestled since I was 4-years-old but I wasn’t a state champ until now. All that hard work paid off.”
Richardson faced Viking teammate Matthew Smith in the title match of the 170-pound division and although Smith battled, Richardson finished with the 22-7 technical fall victory.
“It kind of sucks to face your teammate,” Richardson said. “You both want it but whoever wants it more is going to get it. Smith knows how to work hard and we make each other better in practice. I still have to treat him like a regular opponent when I wrestle him.”
Pleasant Grove head coach Brock Moore said he was extremely proud of both Ridge and Richardson for winning their weight classes.
“They are both seniors and they go out on a high point,” Moore said. “Oakley has been with a long time and I’m so happy that he finally got a win. He’s a three-time state placer, so I’m happy for him. Jake is tough. Matt Smith is a third-year wrestler and he’s in the finals. He’s a true warrior. That kid fights, works his tail off and is just a great kid.”
While those two might be the only ones who got to stand atop the podium individually, Moore said everyone of the Vikings deserves to savor the team title.
“I’m happy with every kid on our team because everyone contributes,” Moore said. “They work their tails off and make everyone better. It’s every kid, not just your kids in the finals. That’s what I’m happy about.”
He’s proud of the tradition and the way they boys value the standard that has been set by the Pleasant Grove program.
“We have a tradition of just working to get better every day and reaching our goals,” Moore said. “We were on the hunt for another title this year and we were just happy that we succeeded with that goal. The guys who are coming back, hopefully they will achieve their goals next year and just keep getting better and better every year.”
The Vikings faced some adversity in terms of having injuries to some big-time wrestlers. Other Pleasant Grove athletes, however, stepped in a got a bunch of points for the team.
“I give credit for that to Coach Moore and the coaches,” Ridge said. “They know how to bring in decent wrestlers and make them state championship material.”
While Moore is proud of his staff and their efforts, he said it’s easier when you have guys like Ridge who are appreciative and not about themselves.
“These are just great kids,” Moore said. “They are good students and they stay out of trouble. I’m most happy about having those types of kids on our team. Our coaches, our parents, our administration, they are all supportive. It takes that many people to do well.”
While Pleasant Grove might not have had a lot of dramatic finishes, the other two Utah Valley 6A champs certainly had some tense moments on their way to victory.
Westlake junior Jacob Finlinson was going for his third straight state title but found himself locked in a titanic struggle against West’s Drew Lang in the 126-pound final.
The two dueled to a 4-4 tie at the end of three rounds, forcing an overtime period.
“Honestly I thought he had me beat,” Finlinson said. “In a neutral overtime period, his shots are better than mine. But he messed up a little and I was able to keep my hips over his head. I knew I had to rip him off and not let him take me down.”
Instead, Finlinson was able to turn the tables and get in position to earn the takedown, ending the sudden death period and earning the 6-4 victory.
“That type of match should be everyone’s goal,” Finlinson said. “Everyone loves to watch a 4-4 overtime match. He was a hell of a wrestler and a worthy opponent. But there is no greater feeling than winning a state title. It’s amazing.”
It wasn’t quite as tight for American Fork sophomore Dallin Hunsaker in the 106-pound division but he had some tense moments of his own against Pleasant Grove’s Jacob Carson.
He clung to a slim lead as the two grapplers fought back and forth but in the end Hunsaker was able to secure the 7-3 win.
“We’ve battled each other multiple times,” Hunsaker said. “I knew it would be a tough match. He wrestles hard but I did my stuff and controlled the match. I stuck to what I was best at and came out on top. He’s a funky wrestler so you have to stay in good position.”
Hunsaker was second last year so he said it was “awesome” to get that first state championship victory.
In addition to the four 6A individual champions, Utah Valley also had eight other finalists: Carson, Matthew Smith, Ted Johnson (182) and Cannon Carlson (195) of Pleasant Grove; Mahkyi Smith, Joshua Millward (126) and Hadley Cowan (138) of Skyridge; and Anthony Stockwell (220) of Westlake.
Westlake finished sixth in the 6A team competition with 122 points while Skyridge finished seventh with 117 points.