The Westlake girls wrestling team made history on Monday — two times over.
Not only did the Thunder earn the distinction as the first officially sanctioned UHSAA girls state wrestling champs but they also became the first program at the school to win a state title.
Westlake scored 288 points to easily outpace Copper Hills (233) for the 6A crown. Fremont was a distant third with 160 points while Pleasant Grove placed fourth with 103 points. Skyridge was 21st place with six points.
All total, 21 teams and 150 girls took to the mats, but when it was all said and done the Thunder made history crowning four individual champions.
Tournament organizers did something a bit unique with the event starting the tournament and the championship finals with the upper weight divisions. By doing so it gave Emmy Finlinson (150 pounds) a chance to make history by being the first girls state champion wrestler in Westlake history. Her older brother Jacob, who will be gunning for his fourth state title on Friday, was the first boys state titlist for the school.
Finlinson didn’t mess around and secured a second-round pin over Clearfield’s Alyxandra Walker. The Thunder grappler had three pins in her route to the gold medal including a 22-second pin in the semifinals.
“I owe a lot to my teammates, my coaches, my mom and my brother,” said Finlinson. In regards to her brother, Finlinson was grateful for his support and help, along with her mother Emily who is an assistant coach in the program.
“He’s helped me so much this year,” said Finlinson of her brother Jacob. “He stays after practice when I need it. He goes early to the girls practices and helps me out. I owe this to him and my mom.”
“I’m so proud of her,” said Jacob Finlinson. “Nobody has worked harder for this than her.”
Lizzie Shunn (140) became the second state champion for the Thunder when she pinned top seed Alyssa Pace in the second round. Like Finlinson, Shunn posted three pins including one pin in just 20 seconds in the quarterfinals.
But Shunn’s story was even more remarkable as her older sister Katie (150), was seriously injured when she was competing against Clearfield’s Walker. Shunn had to put her worries aside to finish her goal of taking state. For Shunn, winning the first official state title as an individual and team was truly special.
“A couple years ago I was the only girl on the team here, like in the club,” Shunn said. “And so like now having this big of a team (with 22 girls) and being able to win as a team is really cool.”
Celeste DeToles (120) and Jamie Barton (108) also won titles for the Thunder.
DeToles pinned Pleasant Grove’s Bryton Moore in the first round, and like Finlinson and Shunn, had three pins in the tournament including one in just 16 seconds. Barton had four pins, all in the first round including one over Syracuse’s Sabrina Jensen to capture the title.
Pleasant Grove had one champion when Brooklyn Hays (145) pinned Westlake’s Megan Allred in the first round.
Westlake was able to beat Copper Hills because of its depth and numerical advantage. The Thunder entered 22 girls into the tournament while Copper Hills had just 13. The Grizzlies put eight grapplers into the championship finals and ended up with four champions. But the Thunder had 16 total wrestlers place in the tournament to overwhelm their competition.
“I was more than impressed with our girls,” Westlake head coach Ben Szabo said. “We have a lot of girls on our team and so a lot of our schools attribute our success to having a large team.
“I would say No. 1, that is true. But you have to have quantity and quality. We worked really hard to get a big team. A lot of our success came from recruiting and bringing girls in. And then we took those girls that had no wrestling experience and built them up the way we have. The girls that won us the state tournament weren’t the state titles, but the girls that took third and the girls that took fifth.”
Complete team and individual results can be found at http://trackwrestling.com.