American Fork freshman wrestler Dallan Hunsaker appeared to be in a tough spot in his quarterfinal match in the 106-pound division against Herriman’s Jaxon Bearden in the 6A state tournament at UVU Wednesday afternoon.
Heading into the third round, not only did Hunsaker trail 2-0, but he faced an opponent who outweighed him and had beaten him at the recent divisional competition.
But Hunsaker was determined this time would be different.
“I was confident that I was better conditioned than he was, that I had worked harder,” Hunsaker said. “I knew I could take him down, but it was up to me to get the last points in the match.”
Hunsaker started the third in the down position, getting a point with an escape and tying things up when Bearden was called for stalling.
That sent the match to overtime and then to the tiebreaker rounds, with Hunsaker not scoring in the first two rounds, but not allowing Bearden to score either.
In the second tiebreaker, Hunsaker knew it was his time.
“I chose down and when I came up, he hooked my leg,” Hunsaker said. “I rolled and turned in to get the reversal.”
That put two points on the board for the Caveman freshmen, who held on the rest of the way to get the dramatic 4-2 tiebreaker victory.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “That proved that my practice and hard work worked out. If you dig deep when it counts, you can get it.”
American Fork head coach Eric Spencer and the Cavemen coaches talked about how Hunsaker wrestled a smart match, staying close and sticking to his game plan.
They said the reality was that Hunsaker wasn’t going to defeat Bearden with size or brute strength, but that he countered with conditioning, technique and grit.
With the win, Hunsaker advanced and will face Pleasant Grove’s Jackson Visser in Thursday’s 106-pound 6A semifinals. The winner of that match would then compete for the state title in the division on Thursday evening.
“It’s awesome to get to the semifinals,” Hunsaker said. “I’m just grateful to be here, grateful for the opportunity to wrestle every day.”
There are 16 other wrestlers from Utah Valley joined Hunsaker and Visser in the semifinals of their respective weight classes.
Leading the way was the talented Viking squad, who had 10 wrestlers make it through the first day unbeaten and built an 35-point lead over second-place Layton (156-121) in the team competition after Wednesday’s action.
“Layton may be behind, but they might have the edge right now,” Pleasant Grove assistant coach Morgan Woodhouse said. “We need to win through in the consolation matches and win where we can. You have a chance of winning if you keep wrestling.”
Few matches had as much drama as Woodhouse’s son, Viking senior Talmage Woodhouse, did in his 138-pound quarterfinal against Northridge’s Edson Romero.
As the No. 1 seed from Division B facing the No. 5 seed from Division A, Talmage Woodhouse came in as the favorite — but Romero wasn’t intimidated.
“I wasn’t expecting him to be as good as he was,” Talmage Woodhouse said. “He was a good wrestler who stayed in good position, so I couldn’t get my sweeps. I had to work to other moves that I wasn’t as comfortable with.”
Talmage Woodhouse then gave Romero an opening and the Knight took advantage, scoring a takedown to take a lead heading into the final minute of the last round.
“I kept working from one thing to the next,” Talmage Woodhouse said. “With the crowd was cheering and the clock ticking down, it was nerve-wracking. But I just took a breath, looked at my coach and kept going. I knew what I had to do.”
With less than 30 seconds left, Talmage Woodhouse finally broke through Romero’s defense and scored a two-point takedown, surging in front and then holding on to get the 4-3 decision.
“It was super-satisfying,” the Pleasant Grove senior said. “I didn’t know it would be that tough and then being behind, it was a lot more exciting to get it.”
He added that making it through to the 6A semifinals is a big deal to him.
“It’s a dream come true,” Talmage Woodhouse said. “I started wrestling in ninth grade and my family has a lot of good wrestlers. It’s great to see how far I’ve come.”
Morgan Woodhouse said watching the match as a coach and a dad made him nervous but proud.
“It shows what happens when you wrestle all six minutes,” he said. “There were a couple of takedowns he should’ve had, but where he drove his opponent off the mat. That was a tough kid, so he had to keep pushing. He’s really come on at the end of the year and really wanted it.”
Pleasant Grove wasn’t the only team to do well. Westlake also had a solid showing, getting six wrestlers through to the semifinals and sitting in fifth overall.
The team title will likely come down to Pleasant Grove and Layton, as the Lancers also put 10 wrestlers into the semifinals and could make up a lot of ground on the final day of competition.
The 6A state semifinals are set to being at 11 a.m. Thursday with the championship matches getting underway at 5 p.m.
All wrestling will take place at the UCCU Center in Orem.