For a program that considers itself to be among Utah’s elite, there would seem to be no better test for the Tooele wrestling team than hosting a tournament titled “Best of the West.”
The list of teams attending the two-day tournament Friday and Saturday at Tooele High School includes some of the top teams in Utah high school wrestling. In addition to Tooele and its county rivals Grantsville and Stansbury, as well as Region 10 rivals Park City and Union, the lineup includes American Fork, Brighton, Clearfield, Hunter, Kearns, Layton, Maple Mountain, Syracuse, Taylorsville, Uintah and West — and that’s just the list of the larger schools. Dixie and Hurricane are making the trip north from Washington County, while Richfield also will be in attendance along with Tintic and Telos.
Each weight class features a 16-man bracket, meaning some grapplers could find themselves wrestling four matches. At this point of the season, it is all about getting mat time in preparation for the region, divisional and state tournaments that loom just over a month away.
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter where these wrestlers are from. Such is the nature of the sport. A 119-pounder from Tintic weighs the same as one from American Fork. Once you’re on the mat, it’s one-on-one. It doesn’t matter what color your singlet is, or how many students are in your graduating class.
It’s all about who wins the battle of wills during those three two-minute periods. And that’s the beauty of the sport, particularly in an individual tournament.
Sure, in a dual, there’s little doubt that a middle-of-the-pack Class 5A school could overwhelm most Class 1A opponents based purely on depth alone. It’s just like if you had the same two schools meet on the football field or basketball court. The smaller school may have players who are just as talented, they just don’t have as many of them.
But in an individual tournament setting? All those factors go out the window. It’s all about which wrestler can string together four victories, no matter where he’s from or who he faces.
Sure, there will be team scores tabulated and trophies handed out at the end of the day Saturday. There’s certainly a lot of pride involved in that, and wrestlers will no doubt be aware that their consolation-bracket match could be the tipping point between their team finishing first or second.
But, just as importantly, this weekend is about individual wrestlers getting ready for the state tournament. And, as the old adage goes — in order to be the best, you must beat the best.
This weekend, the Best of the West may just provide that perfect stepping stone for a state champion or two.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. After enjoying multiple holiday dinners, he doesn’t want to discuss what weight class he belongs in now. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.