HYRUM — They waited a very long time to wrestle at home for the first time this season and it’s fair to say the Mustangs took advantage of that opportunity.
Mountain Crest won arguably the four most anticipated matches of the evening and received strong performances throughout its lineup en route to a gratifying 68-6 victory over Green Canyon in a Region 11 dual on Thursday at the ICON Activity Complex.
“I’m so glad that we got to have fans here, students and family,” MC head coach Jay Tovey said. “I think the sporting world and Mountain Crest community, I think we needed something like this where people could come together and watch something fun, and more importantly just be able to support their kids that they’ve put so much time into. So I’m grateful that our administration and the district let us have people come and watch.”
A trio of Mustangs in Easton Evans, Elijah Larsen and Cooper Sanders defeated opponents who have placed at the 4A State Championships at least once during their careers. Sanders was able to punctuate an impressive effort by Mountain Crest by pinning two-time state medalist Mason Morris in the final bout of the evening.
That 132-pound showdown was a battle of attrition during the first two rounds. Sanders, a defending 4A champion at 120 pounds, trailed 3-2 heading into the final round, but was able to get a quick reversal and shore up his pinning combination at the 4:35 mark. Morris, who is having a very good senior season, injured his shoulder late in the match, but Green Canyon head coach Ryan Webb is confident he will be OK.
“It felt nice, especially after my teammates came up and cheered me on,” Sanders said. “Yeah, it feels good. That was a tough match.”
Larsen put together arguably his best performance of the season in a resounding triumph by technical fall over returning state runner-up James Shumway in their 126-pound duel. The sophomore even executed a rare banana split in the first round — the second of three times he was able to earn back points against Shumway.
“Yeah, I felt good,” Larsen said. “I just wanted to go and tear him apart. He’s been ranked ahead of me, so it’s kind of been giving me that drive and so I just went out there and wrestled tough.”
“We knew that was going to be a really good matchup all week, and Elijah’s one of those kids that just gets up for big matches,” Tovey said. “He was excited to wrestle today and I think the home crowd was definitely an advantage. ... We were really excited for Elijah to be able to wrestle that well against such as good kid.”
Evans (113 pounds) scored the final five points to pull away from Daxton Darley, 8-2, in a hard-fought clash of returning state placers.
Mountain Crest also prevailed in arguably the most entertaining match of the night. The 195-pound duel was an absolute dogfight between Mustang sophomore Hunter Hammer and Green Canyon freshman Will Wheatley. Wheatley jumped out to a 4-0 lead and was in front until Hammer scored four points on a grambie in the second round. Wheatley trailed 13-12 late in the final round and nearly squirted out for a reversal, but Hammer was able to catch him in a reverse headlock and pull out a 16-12 victory.
“Hunter’s a sophomore and I think being in front of the home crowd and it being his first varsity match in front of the home crowd, I think it’s a big deal for him to get that win and get some momentum,” Tovey said. “He did a really good job of just controlling his emotions throughout the match and I’m really proud of him.”
One other bout went to a decision and it also went in Mountain Crest’s favor. Walker Hutchinson (182) was able to control the action, but Luke Blake certainly made him earn a 6-2 win.
In addition to Sanders, the Mustangs got pins from Luke Schroeder (120), Terrell Lee (138), Gabe Sanders (145), Jordan Wakefield (152), Brock Guthrie (160) and Andrew Belles (220). Schroeder, Gabe Sanders, Guthrie and Belles dispatched of their foes in the first round, and Sanders only needed 27 seconds.
Green Canyon heavyweight Garrett Herzog got his team on the scoreboard by sticking his opponent in 31 seconds. This is the first time this season a much-improved Green Canyon squad has been blown out.
“I think there’s no doubt (the Mustangs) are the best team in the state,” Webb said. “Pretty impressive.”
OTHER REGION 11 DUALS
Sky View outpointed short-handed Logan at home, 52-30, while Bear River pulled away from visiting Ridgeline, 46-27.
Injuries prevented the Grizzlies from fielding competitors in exactly half of the 14 weight classes. Logan was able to win four of the six contested duels, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome all of the forfeits.
Pedro Lopez (220) reigned supreme by fall for the Bobcats, while Parley Thacker (126) won by major decision. Sky View head coach Tony Holden was especially pleased with Thacker and fellow freshman Collin Miller, who battled tooth and nail with Logan’s Cooper Redd before getting pinned in the third round.
“It felt good to get a win and I think our kids needed it,” Holden said. “But I just wish he could have wrestled more matches. ... All I told the kids is I just wanted to be competitive in every match and, again, there were a couple of mistakes that we made that put us on our backs, but that’s what happens with a young team. And so we’ll fix that and move onto the next one.”
All four Grizzlies who wrestled and won did so in pinning fashion, and they were Redd (120), Aaron Franckowiack (182), Malakye Lindsey (195) and Ty Stearns (285).
Meanwhile, Bear River bounced back from last week’s loss to Mountain Crest with a good performance against Ridgeline. The Bears won two of the three matches that went down to the wire, highlighted by Landon Cabral’s 10-8 triumph over Kaden Kirk in a showdown of legitimate state title contenders at 170 pounds.
The Riverhawks got pins from Nelson Munk (138), Brenden Gessel (145), Ronan Melani (195) and Daimien Boehme (285), while Cameron Craney (132) won by two points.
PRESTON WINS AGAIN
The Indians have yet to lose a dual during the 2020-21 campaign as they improved to 16-0 with convincing wins over Hillcrest (Idaho), 72-15, and Sky View (Utah), 57-18. Preston has been able to field a full dual squad for the first time in recent memory and it’s fair to say that has made a big difference.
“Through my many years of coaching wrestling, I have always known that to fill a full team you really have to recruit kids to wrestle, so for me that was my first priority when I was asked to coach the wrestling team,” PHS head coach Doug Higley said. “Having Eric Thorson, the head football coach, as an assistant coach has been huge in recruiting the younger athletes.”
Not only did Eli Hammons (113), Tavin Rigby (120), Jonathan Seamons (160) and Emery Thorson win each of their matches for Preston, they did so in pinning fashion both times. Thorson, who qualified for the 4A State Championships last year as a freshman, has only lost twice this season. Additionally, Preston senior Brayden Weisbeck went 2-0 as he stuck his opponent from Hillcrest and got a takedown in overtime to beat Sky View Kade Croft.
Hillcrest was unable to field wrestlers in seven of the 15 weight classes, while Sky View forfeited twice against Preston. The Indians won five of the eight contested bouts against the Knights and 9 of the 13 against the Bobcats.
Also prevailing for Preston against Sky View were Jaden Perkins (152), Micah Serr (182), Caigun Keller (145) and Ashton Madsen (182). Perkins and Serr won by fall, while Keller and Madsen were triumphant by decision. Keller edged Camron Carling by two points.
The Bobcats got pins from Thacker (126) and Shez Hulse (285), and Malachi Davies (195) and Lopez (220) dispatched of their opponents by decision.