The year 2020 provided great triumphs and intrigue in the prep and college wrestling scene in Utah.
Here are the top ten stories of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the 2020-21 wrestling season in several ways.
The season was delayed over two weeks and caused the canceling of many events including the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals. When grapplers took to the mats on December 11, schools hosting tournaments were forced to use interesting and effective adaptations to stay within the Utah High School Activities Association mandates for both participation and crowd-size limits.
As for all winter athletes, COVID-19 testing has become a regular part of an athlete’s routine. The majority of wrestling coaches also feel that COVID-19 and its testing has hurt participation numbers overall. And traveling out-of-state for prestigious tournaments has come to an end as most of the surrounding states have shut down high school athletics.
9. Timpview wrestler earns All-Star Dual invite
Timpview’s Cael Richardson became the first Timpview wrestler to be invited to compete at the Dollamur All-Star Dual. Richardson also was the first Thunderbird wrestler to reach the championship finals at the state meet in over a decade and led a resurgence for the wrestling program, which has been dropped twice by the school.
Timpview cracked the top ten at the 5A state meet, the first time it has done so since the mid 1980’s. Richardson returns and hopes to get to the top in a field of talented 5A grapplers at 220 pounds.
8. UVU has a tough year on the mats
It was a season to forget for the Utah Valley wrestling program, which struggled in the 2019-20 season.
The Wolverines fought injuries all year long and limped to a 3-11 dual meet record and 11th place finish (out of 12 competing programs) at the Big 12 championships qualifying just three wrestlers to the NCAA meet.
Any chance for some redemption there was denied as the NCAA Championships were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
7. Wasatch’s Stockton O’Brien wins fourth state title
Wasatch’s Stockton O’Brien completed a stellar career by winning his fourth 5A state title.
O’Brien also placed third at the Reno Tournament of Champions earning automatic All-American status and signed to wrestle at UVU.
6. Wrestlers excel at All-Star Duals
The 4A team won the Dollamur All-Star Dual but plenty of local wrestlers shined.
The 6A team struggled winning just three matches on the night but American Fork’s Dallan Hunsaker (106 pounds), Pleasant Grove’s Oakley Ridge (145) and Jake Richardson (170) got their hands raised.
Wasatch had a great night and saw four of its wrestlers obtain victory in Deklan Kelley (120), River Wardle (132), Sammy Heywood (138), and Stockton O’Brien (145). Kelly wrestled for the wildcard team as did Skyridge’s Hadley Cowan (138) and Provo’s Jimmy Tomasi (285) who were also victorious.
But in perhaps the most exciting match of the night, Timpanogos’ Elijah Kratzer (195) came from behind to win his match 9-8 over Stansbury’s Kasen Shinn to pick up more points for the wildcard team. Meanwhile, Justyn Mitchell (195) of American Leadership Academy (ALA), a last minute substitute, scored a stunning win by pin for the 3A team.
Several Utah County girls took part as Mitchell’s ALA teammate Sage Mortimer, Westlake’s Lizzy Shunn and Maple Mountain’s Abi Archibald all won their bouts.
5. ALA’s Sage Mortimer wins divisional
ALA’s Sage Mortimer became the first girl wrestler in state history to win a divisional or region meet when she won the 106-pound 3A Divisional B tournament.
She was also named as the meets Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights as she posted four pins in the tournament, three of which came in the first round. As a senior, Mortimer returns, but will just compete against the girls this season.
4. UVU’s Taylor LaMont wins national title
UVU’s Taylor LaMont won the Under-23 Greco-Roman national championship at 60 KG. LaMomt has also qualified for the Olympic Trials where he will be a serious contender to represent the USA in the 2020 Olympics to be hosted in Tokyo.
LaMont also has two years remaining to compete for the Wolverine program and earn NCAA All-American status.
3. Pleasant Grove wins another 6A crown
Pleasant Grove once again dominated the 6A field to win its ninth state title in ten years. The Vikings put two wrestlers on top of the podium with Oakley Ridge (145) and Jake Richardson (170).
Westlake’s Jacob Finlinson (126), just a junior, won his third 6A state title while American Fork’s Dallan Hunsaker (106) also climbed to the top of the podium as a sophomore.
2. Girls wrestling sanctioned for 2020-21
The UHSAA officially sanctioned girl’s wrestling for the 2020-21 season.
However, there are still issues that have to be decided such as the nature of the state competitions, as in how many classifications will be used, qualifying and methods used for team scoring. The UHSAA should have answers to these questions soon but competition is underway.
1. 2020 5A state tournament results in classic battle
In one of the most exciting team races in quite some time, Wasatch bested Payson in the 5A state meet.
The two teams went back and forth for two days thrilling their fans and going into the championship finals, Wasatch held a slim lead over their rivals. Payson crowned two state champions in Cole Jensen (120) and Layne Shepherd (126) to take the lead but it was only temporary as Wasatch’s River Wardle (132), Spencer Heywood (138), and Stockton O’Brien (145) won individual gold to propel the Wasps past the Lions for good.
It was O’Brien’s fourth while Heywood and Wardle won their third state titles. Wardle returns to go for his fourth crown this season.
Other Utah County wrestlers claiming gold were Maple Mountain’s Andrew Jensen (170) and Provo’s Jimmy Tomasi (285). It was Tomasi’s second state title and he was later named as the Utah Valley Wrestler of the Year by the Daily Herald.