With some solid performances and determined wrestling, Skyridge and Westlake positioned themselves to be in the thick of things after the first day of competition at the 6A state tournament at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday.
The Falcons and the Thunder will be looking to make a run at Layton, Syracuse and Fremont with Corner Canyon still in the mix — in the battle for second place.
The top spot?
Well, Pleasant Grove has that virtually secured already.
The Vikings placed 11 wrestlers in the semifinals and built a commanding lead with 149.5 points on Day 1. The Lancers sit in second with 87 points while the other five teams are within 20 points of Layton.
“Any time you can get double-digit athletes into the semifinals, you have to be pleased,” Pleasant Grove assistant coach Chad Slocum said. “It shows the commitment to the program. We are down four of our varsity wrestlers from the regular season but it’s been fun to see the guys filling in.”
Westlake head coach Cody Burdett said it was good to see what his team was able to accomplish on the first day to be in the mix.
“It’s a fun ride when think about where we came from as a school,” Burdett said. “Ten years ago as a brand new school we were 28th out of 28 teams. It’s been a slow build but we have a good group of guys who work hard. It’s fun to see them compete. Our goal is to win state but if we can’t do that, then our goal is to be second. It would be the first trophy for our school if we could do that.”
Leading the way for the past few years for the Thunder has been Jacob Finlinson, a two-time state champion who is going for his third straight title this year as a senior.
This year, however, he is just one of the contingent of Westlake wrestlers battling through the brackets at state.
“It’s always more fun to have other guys here with Jacob to climb the mountain,” Burdett said. “Jacob has been our leader and was the first state champ ever at Westlake. He’s shown it can be done, so now it’s about getting more guys there with him. We have four guys in the semifinals this year.”
Skyridge has only been around four years and Falcon head coach Lyle Mangum has high hopes for the growth of his program as well.
“We had our ups and downs but we have five wrestlers in the semifinals,” Mangum said. “We set ourselves up well and the guys are having fun wrestling.”
He said there has been some added emotion as he has watched his seniors compete in their final state tournament.
“I’ve been with those guys since the school opened,” Mangum said. “They are fun kids and hard workers.”
He noted that Skyridge senior Hadley Cowan’s pin of Westlake’s Dominc Castro in the quarterfinals of the 138-pound division was Cowan’s 199th career win.
But while both the Falcons and the Thunder have talented seniors, their goal is to eventually challenge Pleasant Grove for 6A supremacy.
To do that, Skyridge and Westlake are working to develop solid youth programs and winning traditions.
“We are trying to teach the kids that winning tradition,” Burdett said. “I came from Mountain Crest where we had that but it can be a battle mentally. There have been some frustrating moments. We’ve got some good young wrestlers and we’re excited for next year.”
But Mangum said he doesn’t want the basic approach to change, whether competing for a title or just to stay alive in the consolation brackets.
“The message is to keep having fun and to keep battling,” Mangum said.
The 2020 6A state wrestling meet will conclude on Thursday with the semifinals and last consolation matches taking place during the day and the finals beginning at 4:45 p.m.
All matches will take place at the UCCU Center in Orem.