OREM — All state championships are special, and asking a high school student to rate one over another is unfair — like asking mom or dad to pick their favorite child.
But Wasatch wrestler Stockton O’Brien readily admitted it Thursday night in a crowded UCCU Center at Utah Valley University: this championship hit a little different.
O’Brien won his fourth individual state championship as Wasatch rallied the Wasps’ second straight team title, 243.5 to 234 over Payson at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament.
“It’s pretty special,” said O’Brien, who has committed to wrestle at UVU. “Not very many people can do it, and for me to be one of them is really important. I’m glad I achieved it.
“Not at all like I thought. I’ve had doubts through the years but came out on top. This is pretty important, and I’m happy for myself.”
O’Brien’s fourth title was accompanied by teammates River Wardle (132) and Sammy Heywood (138) to top the podium.
But Thursday’s team title wasn’t just about the Wasps’ top-end talent. Heath Clyde placed second at 113 pounds, Deklan Kelly added a runner-up finish to Payson’s Cole Jensen at 120, and the Wasps took points anywhere they could get them in holding off the Lions.
“We had pretty close to the same teams, with two programs steeped in tradition,” Wasatch coach Wade Discher said. “They have a great coaching staff, and I believe we have a great staff, also. But our kids just kept the course, kept focused through the ebbs and flows of the tournament, got refocused. And when we got beat up, we were able to refocus, too.”
It wasn’t just about the finalists, either.
Wasatch trailed by double digits at one point during the tournament but pulled within 2.5 points of Payson just before the championship finals.
There was Noah Roylance’s 12-7 win over Payson’s Deegan Palmer for third place at 132. Austin Kelly came back from a quarterfinal loss Wednesday to place third with a 13-7 win over Payson’s Cam Ford.
Depth carried the Wasps to their fifth state title in six years.
“There’s story after story I could tell you about these kids,” Discher said. “All these kids fight. They wrestle with passion, they care about each other, and they are generally good kids.”
Then there was Payson, which finished the night with state champions in Jensen (120) and Layne Shepherd (126).
Every match mattered for the Wasps, every single point.
“It makes it so you are really pushing the pace when you realize,” O’Brien said. “You want to score as many points and give your team the best chance at a state title.”
Discher won his ninth state tournament title as head coach of the Wasps, joining Pleasant Grove’s Brock Moore, former Delta coach Ladd Holman (1985-1993), former Uintah coach Dennis Preece (1968-1977), and Wasatch’s Steve Sanderson (1984-2008, 2018) for the second-most tournament championships in UHSAA history.
And the Wasps aren’t going anywhere, either.
“Holy smokes, my young guys fought! I was super happy with their fight,” Discher quipped. “They’re not going anywhere.”
6A state wrestling
Most Outstanding Wrestlers: Stockton O’Brien, Wasatch; Lucas Cochran, Box Elder.
Coach of the Year: Wade Discher, Wasatch.
Wasatch 243.5, Payson 234, Box Elder 164, Viewmont 140, Mountain View 111, Farmington 101, Mountain Ridge 86, Maple Mountain 76, Alta 56, Lehi 10, Timpview 50, Spanish Fork 48, Provo 43, Woods Cross 42, Skyline 36.5.
106 — Kyison Garcia, Mountain Ridge d. Cody Burr, Mountain View, 9-1.
113 — Bridger Ricks, Box Elder p. Heath Clyde, Wasatch, 2:30.
120 — Cole Jensen, Payson d. Deklan Kelly, Wasatch, 3-0.
126 — Layne Shepherd, Payson d. Wyatt Hone, Payson, 3-0.
132 — River Wardle, Wasatch d. Parker Frasure, Farmington, 4-3
138 — Sammy Heywood, Wasatch p. Anthonee Ouk, Brighton, 5:19.
145 — Stockton O’Brien, Wasatch d. Moses Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont, 16-5.
152 — Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont d. Caleb Marx, Box Elder, 3-0.
160 — Jeremy Evans, Viewmont p. Alex Zesiger, Viewmont, 1:13.
170 — Andrew Jensen, Maple Mountain d. Radi Stafford, Mountain View, DQ.
182 — Lucas Cochran, Box Elder p. Elijah Stafford, Mountain View, 1:57.
195 — Jacob Anderson, Farmington p. Louis Williams, Payson, 2:20.
220 — Sau Nafisi, East, d. Cael Richardson, Timpview, 7-5 (SV).
285 — James Tomasi, Provo p. Ryley Horrocks, Mountain View, 3:49.