Skyridge's James Hornberger works for a pin in his match at the Skyhawk Showdown hosted by Salem Hills on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. The Falcons placed fourth as a team in the 25-team field.

It was the first big weekend in prep wrestling with Utah County schools participating in four big weekend tournaments.

One of the best and longest running tournaments in Utah is the Layton Invitational Tournament also known as the L.I.T.

And the Payson Lions sent a message that even though they are moving up from 4A to 5A that they are the team to beat.

Payson scored 178 points to best the 30-team field including Wasatch, last year’s returning state champions in 5A. The Wasps were 20 points behind the Lions pointing 158.

The Lions crowned two champions with Cole Jensen (113 pounds) and Tucker Naccarato (170) while Layne Shepherd (126), Wyatt Hone (132) and Louis Williams (195) placed second. Shepherd, a junior, transferred from Spanish Fork where he was a two-time previous state placer, and he gives the Lions additional claw as they move up a classification.

Wasatch still has plenty of star power as 3-time state champion Stockton O’Brien (152) easily navigated the L.I.T. field with four falls and one major decision. O’Brien got support from Sammy Heywood, who placed second at 145 pounds.

The L.I.T. is one of several tournaments with a field of teams and wrestlers that is much more demanding than the state tournament. All the weight classes are difficult, but the 138-pound class might have boasted the best collection of wrestlers in this tournament’s history.

The top seed was Wasatch’s River Wardle, a 2-time state champion and junior, while Layton’s returning 3-time state champion Tyson Humpherys was the second seed. But neither of these wrestlers even made the championship finals.

Wardle was upset by Pine View returning state placer Riley Helt in the second round so 4A returning state champion Gabe Sanders of Mountain Crest penetrated to the finals from his fourth seed. Humpherys was defeated in the semifinals by Fremont returning state champion Mason Denton, the third seed, who then beat Sanders in the ultimate tiebreaker 6-6, as he rode out the Mustang grappler to pick up the L.I.T. title.

Box Elder (156), Layton (155) and Mountain Crest (154) rounded out the top five but the fact that the top three teams were 5A show that this classification is going to be war filled with many great individual wrestlers. Lehi also made its way north to compete in the L.I.T. and the Pioneers finished 19th in the 30-team field.

The other mega-tough tournament was the Millard Ironman which featured Juab, the returning 3A state champions and Pleasant Grove, the returning 6A champions. Instead of an individual bracketed tournament, the tournament used a dual meet format. Juab won the tournament going 9-0 in its duals and defeating Pleasant Grove 38-27, which placed second at 8-1.

Oakley Ridge (152) and Drew Dennison (285) went undefeated in their duals for the Vikings while Zeke Kelley (138) and Philip Boban (220) went 8-1 and were undefeated going into the final match against the Wasps. Both Kelley and Boban were stopped by returning state champions in Channing Warner and Blake Mangelson. Warner defeated Kelley 9-3 while Mangelson held off a determined Boban, 4-2.

Pleasant Grove remains the team to beat in 6A as the Vikings actually put two teams in the Ironman Duals while their third team competed at the Skyhawk Showdown. The Viking second team went 5-4 and defeated Cedar Valley along the way. The Aviators went 0-9 at the Ironman.

Skyridge was the top Utah County team at the Skyhawk Showdown hosted by Salem Hills.

The tournament was dominated by top-level 2A programs North Summit, Beaver and Altamont which finished in that order and just ten points apart. Skyridge finished fourth but were 42 points behind the Longhorns for third place. Hunter Bown (113) and Hadley Cowan (138) placed second for the Falcons.

There were several Utah County teams in the 25-team Skyhawk Showdown field including host Salem Hills (7th), American Leadership Academy or ALA (8th), Timpview (10th), Mountain View (11th), Spanish Fork (13th), Lone Peak (14th), Springville (15th), Timpanogos (17th), Payson (19th), Pleasant Grove (20th), Provo (24th) and Orem (25th). It should be noted that Payson and Pleasant Grove competed with JV wrestlers as their varsity teams were at other tourneys.

Timpanogos’ Elijah Kratzer (195) was actually the only Utah County wrestler to climb to the top of the podium as he defeated Springville’s Teagon Harris 7-1 in the championship final. Timpview’s Cael Richardson (220) nearly pulled off one of the most stunning upsets but fell short to Altamont’s Mac Thacker, a returning state champion, in the ultimate tiebreaker, 4-3. ALA’s Sage Mortimer placed second at 106 pounds as did her Eagle teammate Lukus Carrillo (132). Other silver medalists included Salem Hill’s Heston Wood (160), Timpview’s Conner Morris (170), and Mountain View’s Riley Horrocks (285).

American Fork went to the smaller Syracuse Scuffle, a dual meet format tournament won by 4A Bear River. The Cavemen went 5-3 in their duals while Dallan Hunsaker (113) and Nathan Bartholomew (126) went undefeated.

The other big news last week was Westlake scoring two big dual meet victories over Layton and Skyridge establishing the Thunder as one of the top teams in 6A. Jacob Finlinson (132), a junior and 2-time state champion, led the way for the Thunder winning both of his matches by pin, while Trent Taylor (152) picked up a big win over Skyridge’s Brayden Rex in a battle of returning state placers.

Both Westlake and Layton scored 37 points but the tiebreaking criteria fell Westlake’s way and the Thunder scored an impressive upset victory over the returning 6A runner-up Lancers. Westlake then defeated Skyridge 39-33 in a battle of programs that finished in the top five in state last season.

In other dual meets last week Provo picked Park City 45-30 but were mauled by Maple Mountain 48-21. Maple Mountain also perplexed Park City 66-18 while Mountain View lapped Lehi 53-24. Also, Corner Canyon crushed Lone Peak 68-6, Payson blanked Provo 80-0, Gunnison gouged Maeser Prep 66-9, Timpanogos tripped Lone Peak 48-25, Spanish Fork slugged past Salem Hills 48-31, Springville stopped Park City 48-36, Mountain View clubbed American Fork 46-24, Syracuse quieted Westlake 45-24, and ALA trimmed Maple Mountain 39-36. Wasatch also whipped Spanish Fork but exact score not reported.

More detailed results of these tournaments and dual meets can be found at http://trackwrestling.com.

Lastly, the Utah High School Activities Association has sanctioned girls wrestling for the 2020-21 school year. Much details are still to be worked out what this competition will look like, especially at the state level and within classifications. The Wrestling Against Cancer Duals featured a dual of female wrestlers between Westlake and girls representing other girls. The L.I.T. also had four different weight divisions of female wrestlers. Westlake has reported as many as 35 girl wrestlers on their team which is more than most programs have boys across the state. With girls wrestling becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the nation (and state) it seems like sanctioning competition is a viable concept for Utah.