President’s Day Monday was a busy day for Utah high school wrestling.
USA Wrestling Utah hosted the Utah Girls State Championship at the Telos campus in Orem. Girls wrestling will be sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) for the 2020-21 season, so Monday’s event was unofficial, but it might give a glimpse into what the competition might look like. This year 141 total girls took part and Westlake won the team title aided by the fact the Thunder had the biggest representation with 21 girls competing.
Lizzie Shunn (130 pounds) took first place to lead the Thunder attack while teammates Briana Carlson (180) and Aaliyah Fister (165) placed second and third respectively.
Maple Mountain finished fourth behind Westlake with just four grapplers. Abi Archibald (150) placed first for the Golden Eagles while sisters Alexa (125) and Ashley (165) Camacho placed second.
American Leadership Academy (ALA) entered two athletes and both placed first with Sage Mortimer (105) and Olivia Carrillo (140). ALA finished seventh overall.
Other county teams competing were Mountain View (8th), Provo (26th), Skyridge (32nd), Pleasant Grove (35th), and Springville (36th). A total of 49 schools sent wrestlers to the meet.
Big questions still loom for girls wrestling
Indeed, girls wrestling will be sanctioned for next year but the structure for competitions still remains a mystery. It is unlikely that the girls wrestling can just follow the structure of boys wrestling with six classifications. The numbers, especially in rural areas, just don’t justify this model.
Also, at the meet last Monday, all wrestlers for the program scored. This is the model used in 4A, 5A and 6A wrestling but in 1A through 3A, they use a “score best” method meaning that teams can enter two wrestlers per weight at the divisional state meets, but only the wrestler that does best in the weight class is able to score points directly for the team. Obviously, the larger programs like Westlake, Fremont and Cyprus benefit from the “score all” method.
Girls wrestling will need to use different weight classes that best fit the distribution of competitors. And would using 14 weight classes be workable? The upper three weight divisions at the girls meet had four or less competitors, and that again was inviting all-comers across the state.
Then there is a debate on what style should be used for competition. High school wrestling has favored collegiate or folkstyle, but many states that have recently sanctioned girls wrestling are using freestyle, the style of wrestling used in the Olympic games. And the fact that girls wrestling is new does allow the UHSAA to shape the competition, along with the choice of style of wrestling, in different ways.
Some female wrestlers have shown the ability to compete well against the boys.
Sage Mortimer, a junior, won her divisional tournament and has qualified for state three years and placed in state as a freshman. She also places high in most every weekend invitational tournament. Mortimer easily won her competition at the girls meet with four first-round pins. And certainly her head coach Tucker Ray enjoys the points she brings to his team in these competitions. But that might come to an end with the official UHSAA sanctioning of girls wrestling.
“I think the state sanctioning girls wrestling is a good thing,” said Mortimer “but some of the state’s best girls wrestlers like Hailey (Cox) and Candace (Workman) and myself definitely got where we are at by wrestling against the boys.”
Mortimer actually prefers freestyle over folkstyle and she placed at the USA Wrestling Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, making history as the only female wrestler to place at the Cadet Nationals.
Atlas All-Star Showdown
Also on Monday at Pleasant Grove High School, there was one last meet to showcase some of the state’s best high school wrestlers.
Unlike the Dollamur All-Star Dual, the Showdown features just two teams instead of six. And the teams are actually put together by two competing wrestlers. The two captains were Wasatch’s 4-time state champ Stockton O’Brien and Pleasant Grove’s state champion Jake Richardson, and they dubbed their teams Team OG and Team SZN respectively.
Also, some wrestlers moved up weight classes to create more competitive match-ups and the winning team got to claim all the prizes at the “winner’s table.”
Team OG (O’Brien) won the meet 36-25.
Provo’s Jimmy Tomasi (285), the 5A two-time state champion, picked up a pin against Fremont’s Weston Warr, the 6A silver medalist, to help Team OG with six big points. And O’Brien himself went up a weight to 152-pounds and beat the 2A champ Brock Edwards of Beaver, also up a weight, by major decision, 15-7.
Richardson (170) defeated two-time 2A state champion Tyler Scheurn of North Summit, also by major decision, 21-7.
Two other Utah County wrestlers took part as Dallan Hunsaker (106), the 6A state champ, lost to Mountain Ridge’s Kysion Garcia, the 5A state champ, 5-2. Payson’s Cole Jensen (120), the 5A state champ who also won a state title two years ago in 4A, was pinned by Morgan’s Waylon Pentz, the 3A state champion.
Intriguing stats at state tournaments
In the 5A state tournament Wasatch edged Payson by 9.5 points and the meet was decided until the championship finals. Payson actually placed 14 wrestlers in the state meet while Wasatch placed 12. Payson ended up bringing 23 wrestlers to the 5A tournament while Wasatch had 18 qualifiers. The difference seemed to be the fact that Wasatch put five in the championship finals while Payson managed four. The 5A field proved tough enough overall for Wasatch’s quality to win out over Payson’s depth. The two programs put on an incredible showcase of wrestling two weekends ago that excited their fan bases.
In 6A, Layton ended up having the most state champs with three, while team winner Pleasant Grove had two gold medalists. But for the second straight year, Pleasant Grove’s stellar depth won the day. The Lancers had nine placers but couldn’t match Pleasant Grove’s 12 wrestlers that made the podium. And the Vikings also brought 21 wrestlers to the big tourney while Layton qualified 14. Pleasant Grove also produced six finalists where Layton had four. In reality, neither Pleasant Grove nor Layton’s 2020 teams were as dominant as those in 2019. In 2019 Pleasant Grove actually placed 16 grapplers while Layton had nine finalists and six champs.