Tuesday , February 06, 2018 - 5:15 AM
BRIGHAM CITY — By some measures, Brigham City is a small town — its population hovers around 18,000 people, and it’s just far enough but not that far from Ogden and Logan.
It is known for many things: its luminescent, new temple, being the county seat of Box Elder County and, of course, Peach Days.
It’s also known as the city where the nation’s No. 1 prep wrestler in the 145-pound class, and arguably the best pound-for-pound high school wrestler in Utah, goes to high school.
Just saying his name at high school wrestling practices instantly grabs attention. The Box Elder High senior, who’s committed to the University of Nebraska, is that well-known and has been that good for that long. If there’s a wrestling accolade or tournament in Utah, he’s probably won it multiple times.
This week, he’ll aim to achieve another, yet much harder accomplishment, at the 6A/5A wrestling state championships Wednesday and Thursday at Utah Valley University. He’s vying for a fourth individual state championship. Only 19 wrestlers have ever won four individual titles in Utah, according to UHSAA records.
Four championships have been his goal ever since he could wrestle, fueled at first by having to wrestle bigger and stronger cousins while growing up and then watching them win state championships.
Though he is on the precipice of the state tournament and a potential fourth title, he expressed some disbelief that he’s here, so close to his dream.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I feel like I’m just wrestling, kind of wrestling ... match-to-match and not really thinking too much about it,” Hardy said.
The BEHS wrestling room where Hardy has practiced and trained for years is a journey of Bees wrestling history on its own. There are boards on one wall naming state champions from the school, and there are dozens of trophies scrunched together on shelves on the wall across from it.
Among the names on the state champion board, a few stick out to Hardy. There’s his brother Koleton Hardy, a two-time state champ in 2010 and 2011, and his cousins Shane (2011 champion), Shand (2013 champ) and Caleb (2000).
On the bottom, left-hand corner of the board, one name is all alone in the spot that shows four-time champions: “J. Newby, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.”
“Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old, I’d look up and see Jeff Newby’s name up there and be like, ‘I’m going to be the next one up there,’” Hardy said. “It’s just been a goal my whole entire life and just seeing my cousins succeed ... I kind of just wanted to live up to them, and it just kind of worked out that I ended up being pretty good at wrestling.”
As long as being a Division-I commit, having a 46-0 record, winning championships at the Rockwell Rumble, Richardson Memorial and the famed Walsh IRONMAN tournament, beating the top-ranked 145-pounder in the country — coupled with what he’s already done in three years — qualifies as pretty good, then yes, Hardy is pretty good.
But that illustrates how humble he is.
“I’ve kind of realized (the recognition and rankings) and taken it all in, I feel like I’m just another kid, another small-town kid playing sports,” Hardy said.
Two days after Christmas, Hardy was at the Who’s No. 1 of Washington tournament in Maple Valley, Washington (30 miles southeast of Seattle), where he wrestled Mason Phillips, then the top-ranked 145-pounder in the nation, according to FloWrestling. Hardy pinned Phillips, clapped a couple of times as a celebration and that was it.
No crying, no shouting to the heavens. All Hardy did was get on the mat with the mentality that he had nothing to lose — and he wrestled untethered.
In all likelihood, if he wins the 5A 145-pound title, his celebration will be similar to that, because in his own words, he’s another small-town kid doing sports. Though by some measures, he’s already accomplished big things.
Hardy’s pursuit of an elusive fourth championship isn’t the only intriguing plot to watch this week at UVU.
Layton High is eyeing a second consecutive team title after ending perennial power Pleasant Grove’s six-year vicegrip on the championship. The Lancers and Vikings are the two schools many expect to face off for the 6A team title, with Syracuse and Bingham also in the mix.
The Lancers beat Syracuse for the Region 1 championship earlier this season and touts two wrestlers — Tyson Humphreys at 145 pounds and Terrell Barraclough at 138 — who are defending state champions at 120 and 113 pounds, respectively.
Weber’s Brady Briskey is a defending champ at 285 pounds and has consistently been the top-ranked 6A heavyweight all season, according to USA Wrestling Utah.
Syracuse has two wrestlers — Jayden Burton at 195 and Bridger Ostler at 132 — who could end up in their respective classifications’ title matches as well. Mason Denton and Jeff Hardy from Fremont could also make deep runs.
Brock Hardy isn’t the only Box Elder senior eyeing the top podium spot come Thursday night. Garrett Ricks is going for his third state title, competing this year at 120 pounds.
Wasatch High is a three-time defending team champion, but there’s serious talk that Viewmont could lift a team trophy for the first time since the Vikings three-peated in 2010 following a run of three straight from 2004-06.
The Vikings thrashed Box Elder for the Region 5 championship and tout a defending champ at 132 pounds, Shion Abe, who wrestles this year at 145. Viewmont has been at or near the top of USA Wrestling Utah’s 5A team rankings most of the year, and depth is the reason.
Parker Frasure (113 pounds), Jeremy Evans (132), Collin Smith (170), Cameron Brown (182), Taylor Money (195) and Andrew Bargeron (285) are just a few Vikings who have a chance to wrestle for a championship.
Two more names to keep an eye on: Box Elder junior Ryan Gunn (220) and Woods Cross senior Thomas Gordy (113).
The 4A/3A wrestling championships are Friday and Saturday at UVU following the 6A/5A championships Wednesday and Thursday.
Bear River could be in the conversation for the 4A team title once the final scores are tallied. If not, the Bears still could get individual championships from Kaygen Canfield and Zack Bingham, maybe more.
In 3A, it’s a showdown between Juab and Delta, but Morgan has a decent shot at third if the Wasps and Rabbits do in fact finish 1 and 2. Chase Trussell is the ninth-ranked 220-pounder in the country, according to FloWrestling.
Antonio Nava, Chris Payne, Jarrett Jorgensen and Joseph Mecham could also score big points for the Trojans.
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