There’s nothing like the spotlight.
Twenty-four teams from southern Utah and surrounding areas were whittled down to 28 wrestlers by the end of Dixie’s Desert Storm two-day tournament.
The lights dimmed and 14 weight class champions emerged.
Desert Hills had another fine showing Saturday, as they finished second overall to Cimarron-Memorial of Las Vegas, Nev., and had a tournament-high four wrestlers in the finals.
“I cannot complain about our performance this weekend,” Thunder head coach Warren Richins said. “Four for four (wins in the finals), all of them wrestled really well. We’re happy about it.”
Both Thunder’s Joe Mondragon and Devan Webb had previously placed first at the Desert Storm championship. New to the podium were Hunter Neville and Tyler Stevenson. Neville beat out the one-seed to make it into — and win — his first final. Stevenson took his match without giving up a point (6-0).
Last week, at their tournament, Richins stated it was a good opportunity to see how they stacked up.
With both the quality and quantity of competition increased at this weekend’s event, Richins sounded pleased: “It makes us aware that we can compete with just about anybody and it makes me excited to see how we do in region.”
Snow Canyon, fresh off a loss to Desert Hills, cheered on their lone Warrior grappler in the finals. From his patient approach down to his calf-high wool socks, Leavitt wrestled in less-than-flashy fashion but outworked his opponent.
“I got a switch on him and a couple near-fall points, and then just scored him out,” said Leavitt, who vastly improved upon last year’s fifth-place finish.
“My team definitely supported me,” he said, pointing to a section of green and gold in the stands. “You know, you’re out here alone, but they cheer for you, and you just want to give your all for them.”
As for the socks, Leavitt added: “They’re really comfortable. It’s kind of something I wear to keep me in the zone, I guess.”
Freshman Cobe Barrett of Canyon View had the first of only three pins in the championship matches, needing little less than the first round.
“I just feel like that if I can take a chance to do something like a pin or something like that, I’m going to take it,” said Barrett. “This is my first big, high school tournament, as a freshman, so it feels great.”
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS: 1 – Cimarron-Memorial, 2 – Desert Hills, 3 – Virgin Valley, 4 – Canyon View, 5 – Tucson Magnet.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS: 106: James Wright, Spanish Fork; 113: Cobe Barrett, Canyon View, 120: Joe Mondragon, Desert Hills; 126: Angel Laurente, Cimarron-Memorial; 132: Chris Quiroz, Tucson Magnet; 138: Branson Ashworth, Spanish Fork; 145: Devan Webb, Spanish Fork; 152: Brock Smith, Virgin Valley; 160: Aryton Almberg, White Pine; 170: Kimball Leavitt, Snow Canyon; 182: Hunter Neville, Desert Hills; 195: Mikaio Schwalger, Pine View; 220: Tyler Stevenson, Desert Hills; 285: Austin Sinyard, Cimarron-Memorial.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLERS: Branson Ashworth, lower weight classes; Aryton Almberg, upper weight classes.