Family rivalry has, and will be a big part of the Utah County wrestling scene. Already this season fans have seen a brother vs. brother and father vs. son coaching competitions.
In the Battle of the Forks, Eric and Kip Spencer led American Fork and Spanish Fork into battle with the older brother Eric and his American Fork Cavemen besting the Dons. Then at the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals, Skyridge head coach Lyle Mangum faced off against Salem Hills led by son his Blake. Skyridge came out on top in this first intergenerational meeting.
Another interesting dynamic will be how the new realignment will impact the team races. The aforementioned Skyridge will move up to 6A and the Falcons will hope to contend for a trophy. Last year the Falcons finished fourth in 5A.
Skyridge has returning state finalists Joshua Milward (132) and Hadley Cowan (138), along with returning state placers James Hornberger (170) and Braden Rex (138). All of the above wrestlers could move down a weight as the Falcons look to strengthen their team led by Lyle Mangum, now in his 20th season as a head coach and fourth year at Skyridge.
Mangum’s son Blake wrestled at both Lone Peak and Wasatch, winning a state title for the Wasps in 2008, will now be the new head coach for Salem Hills program as it moves up to 5A this season. Salem Hills finished in the top ten last year and put three wrestlers in the championship finals winning two state titles, but all three of those wrestlers graduated. Heston Wood (160) does return as a state placer for the Skyhawks.
The younger Mangum does see an epic battle between Wasatch and Payson shaping up for the 5A title. Wasatch is the returning 5A state champion while Payson won the 4A state title and like Salem Hills is moving up a classification for the 2019-20 season.
“Wasatch and Payson are going to create a fun team state championship race. Wasatch has the stars, but Payson has the depth,” stated the younger Mangum.
Wasatch returns Stockton O’Brien (145 pounds) who recently placed third at the Reno Tournament of Champions earning automatic All-American status. River Wardle (132), a junior goes for his third state title, as does senior Sammy Heywood (145).
Payson doesn’t have any returning state champions from last year but does have a bevy of returning state placers. Tucker Naccarato (170) has led the way placing at Reno while also winning the Layton Invitational. Cole Jensen, a state champion two years ago, will hope to return to the top of the podium at 120 pounds. Payson was bolstered by the transfer of state placer Layne Shepherd (126) from Spanish Fork while Wyatt Hone (132) returns after placing second in state last season.
Payson and Wasatch have seen each other in two successive tournaments. Payson won the Layton Invitational where Wasatch was second but the Wasps at 13th place were the top Utah team in the 109-team field at the Reno Tournament of Champion where the Lions finished in 22nd place. But the state tournament will more resemble the Layton Invitational than the Reno field full of elite wrestlers from all over the country.
Spanish Fork’s Kip Spencer sees Payson as the clear favorite.
“I think Payson is the favorite to win it all. I think Box Elder and Wasatch will give a push, but too many stars and a deep JV will help Payson get it done, and I think easily,” stated Spencer.
Payson’s JV wrestlers have shown their strength and while the varsity was at Reno, the Lions placed fifth in the Capitol City Classic with its JV team.
Like Payson and Salem Hills, Spanish Fork also makes the jump up to 5A from 4A and the Dons are rebuilding a bit losing both of its state finalists from last year. However, Don head coach Kip Spencer is liking what he’s seeing from his young team.
“Our team is young and coachable, something we have been missing for a few years,” related Spencer. “We lost 10 varsity returning wrestlers, five to graduation and five to transferring to a different school. We still have five returning state qualifiers with Clay Orton, Dawson Shepherd, Coleman Crockett, Brock Davis, and Hunter Rasmussen.”
Mountain View, another team jumping up from 4A to 5A, has really garnered some positive attention in the early part of the season. The Bruins went 3-0 at the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals beating Maple Mountain, Riverton, and American Leadership Academy (ALA).
The Bruins are led by twin brothers Radi and Elijah Stafford who are expected to man the 182 and 195-pound weight classes. The Stafford brothers, both of which placed in state last season, are unique because they also play basketball for Mountain View. The Bruins are also bolstered by Ryley Horrocks (285), who recently placed second in the Skyhawk Showdown.
Maple Mountain hopes to stay in the top five and the Morris brothers (Brock at 113 and Declan at 138) will lead the Golden Eagles. Cooper Cox (132) is a returning state placer as is Andrew Jensen (170/182). Quinlin Jackson (160/170) and Brody Esquivel (195) will bolster Maple Mountain as it hopes to compete for a top five finish in 5A.
Provo returns state champion Jimmy Tomasi (285) and Bulldog head coach Mike Olsen hopes that Josh LeBaron (160) and Josh Weeks (152) can make the podium.
Cael Richardson (220) and Conner Morris (170) will lead Timpview into battle while Elijah Kratzer (195) is certainly a contender for a title for Timpanogos. And Springville returns state placer Jace Witney (152) while Alejandro Quezada (182) and Teagon Harris (195) are also quality grapplers for the Red Devils.
While Payson and Wasatch look to dominate 5A, Pleasant Grove is definitely the team to beat in 6A. The Vikings don’t have any returning state champions but have a bevy of returning state placers.
Senior Oakley Ridge has been in the finals twice and hopes to get to the top this year at 152 pounds. Zeke Kelley (138) placed second in state as a freshman and sixth in state last year as a sophomore. Phillip Boban (220), Jackson Visser (132), and Matt Smith (170) are returning state placers. Drew Dennison (285) has really stepped up his game beating a returning state champion from Juab at the Millard Ironman Duals while incoming freshman Jacob Carson (106) and Pennsylvania move-in Jake Richardson (170) add to the Viking bounty of riches. In fact, Richardson just placed fourth at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
Last year, Westlake had a historic year beating Pleasant Grove in a dual meet and finishing in the top five in 6A. The Thunder have picked up where they left off beating traditional large-school powerhouse Layton this season.
The Thunder are led by junior Jacob Finlinson (126/132) who is gunning for his third state title. Tucker Butler (132/138), Anthony Stockwell (220), Dominic Castro (138/145), and Trent Taylor (152) are returning state placers for the Thunder.
Westlake is looking to make the next step and earn the respect that comes from being a consistent top-level program.
“Since Westlake wrestling program started in 2009, we haven’t been taken very seriously as a threat to do much of anything. Our goal is to become a perennial power through our hard work and relentless effort,” said Westlake head coach Cody Burdett. “Taking third at the Juab Winter Classic turned some heads as we beat the likes of Millard, Duchesne, Box Elder and Fremont.”
Burdett knows that beating Pleasant Grove won’t be easy and knows that Viking depth was the reason Pleasant Grove won the state title over Layton, which had the stars and crowned six individual champions. Burdett wants to strengthen his team’s depth and Westlake boasts nearly 100 wrestlers in its program with nearly 35 of them being female wrestlers.
“We were region champs last year beating Pleasant Grove in a dual. Some people thought it was a fluke,” related Burdett. “Pleasant Grove’s depth is incredible and that’s what has won them state year after year. So we know we need to work on our depth if we want to overtake them at the top.”
American Fork hopes to continue its recent success and turns to Dallan Hunsaker (113), Nathan Bartholomew (126), Isaac Bartholomew (132) and Hayden Wilson (138), all of which placed in state last season.
“I think Pleasant Grove is the team to beat, but Syracuse, Fremont, and Westlake are all tough this year as well,” stated Cavemen head coach Eric Spencer.
Lone Peak’s Ethan Rugg (160) just won the Capitol City Classic while Lehi’s Harrington Ray (220) placed an impressive eighth at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
In 3A, ALA turned some heads crowning three individual state champions. One of those titlists returns in Lukas Carrillo, who will grapple this year at 132 pounds. Carrillo will get back up from one of the top female wrestlers in the state in Sage Mortimer (106). Mortimer, a junior, placed third in state as a freshman. Andrew Fox, also at 106, will likely contend for a state title and Justyn Mitchell (195) is a returning state placer.
Cedar Valley has struggled this year as a new 4A school but Caden Dunn (138) has a legitimate shot to place at state for the Aviators while Orem’s Justin Evans (145) will hope to do the same.