OREM — After the first day of wrestling at the Class 4A state tournament Friday, two teams began to separate themselves from the pack, both with their own claims on a championship.
Uintah's Gavin Ayotte, the Utes' star 132-pounder, is glad his team is one of them.
Payson leads the overall tournament with 134.5 points, but just 12.5 points ahead of Uintah by the end of the day.
The fact that Uintah is in contention for a state title wouldn’t be a surprise; the Utes have won 23 titles in school history, though the last came in 1999.
Perhaps the more surprising part of the race, then, is that Uintah is in contention under first-year head coach Phillip Keddy, who replaced longtime coach Gregg Stensguard last spring.
But the Utes were well prepared by the former Uintah assistant who was a three-time All-American at Iowa.
“All throughout the season, Keddy and the coaches were pushing us and getting us where we need to be,” Ayotte said. “Right now, we are all ready. We are where we need to be and Keddy made sure of it.”
Uintah advanced eight wrestlers through to Saturday’s semifinals, which begin at 10:30 a.m. MT at the UCCU Center in Orem. That’s just one fewer than the Lions.
“It’s really cool,” Ayotte said of those numbers. “It’s great to see because we all worked for it and we deserve it.”
In addition to Ayotte, Raiden Harrison (106), Brady Merkley (106), Brody Rich (113), Randon Deets (126), Dylan Dick (138) and Bridger Bennion (145) all advanced to the semifinals.
The Lions will rely on semifinalists Cole Jensen (113), Deegan Palmer (120), Wyatt Hone (126), Jorge Sanchez (132), Brock Loveless (145), Tyler Knapp (152), Tucker Naccarato (160), Tyson Carter (170) and McCoy Cook (220).
Payson 134.5, Uintah 122, Bear River 95.5, Canyon View 78, Mountain Crest 59, Desert Hills 53, Salem Hills 50, Mountain View 48.5, Cedar 45, Hurricane 44.
4A semifinal matchups
106 — Trenton Ward, Bear River, v. Raiden Harrison, Uintah; Brady Merkley, Uintah, v. Austin Ennis, Cedar.
113 — Cole Jensen, Payson, v. Brody Rich, Uintah; Cole Huber, Uintah, v. Joseph Mecham, Tooele.
120 — Scott Robertson, Bear River, v. Jared Armstrong, Hurricane; Dylan Moore, Stansbury, v. Deegan Palmer, Payson.
126 — Gabe Sanders, Mountain Crest, v. Mason Morris, Green Canyon; Randon Deets, Uintah, v. Wyatt Hone, Payson.
132 — Colter Ricks, Ridgeline, v. Caleb Armstrong, Hurricane; Gavin Ayotte, Uintah, v. Jorge Sanchez, Payson.
138 — Chance Parker, Ridgeline, v. Dylan Dick, Uintah; Ryker Boyce, Desert Hills, v. Weston Hirschi, Bear River.
145 — Quade Jones, Desert Hills, v. Ryan Larsen, Salem Hills; Bridger Bennion, Uintah, v. Brock Loveless, Payson.
152 — Tyler Knapp, Payson, v. Brady Lowry, Canyon View; Jonathan Hyatt, Mountain View, v. Michael Anker, Cedar.
160 — Tucker Naccarato, Payson, v. Ryan Ball, Canyon View; Chyler Zeeman, Salem Hills, v. Maverik Skinner, Bear River.
170 — Tyson Carter, Payson, v. Heston Wood, Salem Hills; Braydon Cavalieri, Canyon View, v. Antony Torres, Sky View.
182 — Gavin Carter, Canyon View, v. Gage Hall, Desert Hills; Merrill Morley, Salem Hills, v. Carson Hansen, Snow Canyon.
195 — Cooper Legas, Orem, v. Elijah Stafford, Mountain View; Payton Murray, Cedar, v. Ben Boyack, Spanish Fork.
220 — Nathan Ellis, Cedar, v. Colter Freeze, Bear River; Sam McMurray, Mountain Crest, v. McCoy Cook, Payson.
285 — Sam Dawe, Spanish Fork, v. Enoka Fuailetolo, Deseret Hills; David Herrig, Mountain View, v. Kioni Alvarez, Cedar.