Liisa London Mecham
For 19 years, Tooele High has hosted the Best of the West wrestling tournament and they have welcomed wrestlers from across the state to determine the best wrestlers in the West. This year, the tournament welcomed 838 male and female wrestlers to the varsity boys’, girls’ and junior varsity boys’ tournaments. The huge numbers this year nearly doubled 2021’s wrestler count of 463. 26 boys teams and 28 girls teams descended on the valley Friday-Saturday January 6-7 at Tooele High and Tooele Jr. High. All three area schools competed in the boys, girls and JV tournaments.
Matches began Friday afternoon and continued until late Friday night before resuming early Saturday morning. The tournament wrapped up about 8:30 Saturday evening with the championship bouts. When the final whistle blew, five Tooele Valley wrestlers stood atop the podium as Best of the West Champions! The Grantsville girls team won the team championship with the Tooele girls earning third. Stansbury’s boys finished fourth. Tooele Valley wrestlers proved they are among the best of the West.
With girls’ wrestling in its second official season, the popularity of the sport only continues to grow. In 2021, 106 female wrestlers competed in the Best of the West Tournament; the 2022 count tallied 236. Of the 236 wrestlers, over 59 were local wrestlers: Tooele (14), Grantsville (31) and Stansbury (14).
Grantsville repeated as Best of the West Team Champions for the second year in a row. Their 260 points outscored second-place Jordan (166.5) by nearly 100 points. Tooele earned third with 146 points followed by Mountain Ridge (135) and Hillcrest (134) in fourth and fifth. Stansbury took sixth with 110 points.
Twenty-two Tooele County female wrestlers earned places on the podium and among those were six wrestlers who advanced to the finals: Tooele’s Linsday Hansen (105 pounds), Grantsville’s Brielle Fawson (120 pounds), Grantsville’s Vanessa Elexpuru (125 pounds), Grantsville’s Nikki Dong (130 pounds), Grantsville’s Hailey Broderick (155 pounds) and Stansbury’s Angie Aguilar (235 pounds).
After the championship bouts, Hansen and Fawson held the title of Best of the West Champions while Elexpuru, Dong, Broderick and Aguilar earned silver medals.
Hansen’s aggressive wrestling and non-stop motion propelled her to a major decision 14-2 victory over Hillcrest’s Eva Zimmerman at 105 pounds. In the 120 bout, Fawson went down 0-2 on a takedown by Skyridge’s Madison Sherman before getting a reversal and then a pin at the 1:41 mark to claim the 120-pound crown.
In Elexpuru’s 125-pound title match, she went up 4-1 before getting reversed and pinned early in the first period (1:08). Dong, wrestling in the 130-championship bout, was also pinned in the first period (1:46).
Broderick battled to the end of regulation in the 155-pound title match to a 4-4 tie with Herriman’s Katie Law. With no score after the first two overtime periods, Law earned near fall in the third overtime to earn the victory 7-4 over Broderick who will represent the 3A/4A team at 155 in the All-Star Duals on Tuesday, January 10 at UVU.
In the final girls match of the night at 235 pounds, Aguilar went down 0-2 in the first period before rebounding and scoring near fall early in the second to go up 3-2 with 36 seconds remaining in the second period. Unfortunately, she was reversed by Jordan’s Arianah Cowgur seconds later and pinned (3:27).
All three area coaches were pleased with their team’s performances and expressed their excitement about the future of girls wrestling in the valley.
“I couldn’t be prouder as a coach,” Tooele coach Joel Spendlove said. “This was our first tournament where we had our full line up, and it showed.
“It was a tourney full of tough kids and to see ours persevere…I couldn’t be happier.”
“I am very happy with how the Stansbury lady wrestlers performed this past weekend at the Best of the West,” Codie Miller, head coach at Stansbury, added. “We had some newer girls place in the tournament to help the experienced wrestlers.
“Now our next goal is to build from here and set new goals to do better every day.”
Grantsville Coach Matt Mecham commented further on the team’s progress and how it has paid off up to this point.
“I’m proud of our girls for working to improve at every competition, wrestling their hardest and not giving up,” Mecham said. “The girls are using what we are teaching them in practice and improving their craft.”
Grantsville High Girls Placers
Rhylee Clark (100 pounds) 3rd place
Sophia Camargo (105 pounds) 3rd place
Taylor Rackley (110 pounds) 5th place
Brielle Fawson (120 pounds) 1st place
NIkki Dong (125 pounds) 2nd place
Kaisley Clark (140 pounds) 3rd place
Emma Quigley (140 pounds) 5th place
Courtney Mecham (145 pounds) 5th place
Hailey Broderick (155 pounds) 1st place
Zoey Cloward (190 pounds) 4th place
Stansbury High Girls Placers
Kacie Jean Nichols (120 pounds) 4th place
Kortnee Selin (125 pounds) 4th place
Abigail Acosta (155 pounds) 5th place
Karrissa Hadfield (155 pounds) 6th place
Alize Acosta (170 pounds) 6th place
Angie Aguilar (235 pounds) 2nd place
Elisia Trujillo (235 pounds) 6th place
Tooele High Girls Placers
Lindsay Hansen (105 pounds) 1st place
Jaycee Ware (115 pounds) 3rd place
Julli Miranda (125 pounds) 3rd place
Ana Chlarson (135 pounds) 3rd place
Addi Fitch (170 pounds) 4th place
Best of the West Boys’ Tournament
In the boys’ tournament, 604 male wrestlers (278 varsity boys, 324 JV boys) competed for the 14 varsity titles and JV medals. Stansbury advanced four wrestlers to the finals and came away with three champions.
As a team, they placed fourth (125.5 points) overall behind the team champions Spanish Fork (277), second-place Green Canyon (171.5) and third-place Timpanogos (135.5). Grantsville claimed ninth in the 26-team field while Tooele finished 12th.
At 106 pounds, Stansbury’s Benjamin Ploehn pinned his way through the tournament, ending with a 3:09 pin in the championship bout over Eric Aguilar of Escondido, California. His finals’ match was his longest of the evening.
In the opening round he pinned in 51 seconds, and in the quarterfinal, it only took him 16 seconds to put his opponent’s shoulders to the mat. In the semifinals, Benjamin won by fall in 2:57.
Benjamin’s older brother, Brandon Ploehn — wrestling at 144 pounds — was also a tournament champion. Brandon opened the event with a pin (3:57) followed by a tech fall in the quarterfinals (17-2). In the semis, he beat Copper HIlls by major decision 12-1 before taking an exciting 4-3 decision in the championship bout over David Wetzel of Spanish Fork.
In this title bout, the first period ended tied 0-0 before Brandon scored on a reversal early in the second period to go up 2-0.
Wetzel managed to escape with two seconds remaining in the second to come within one, 2-1, to start the third period. After starting down, Wetzel earned the escape at the 1:37 mark to even the score at 2-2. With 31 seconds remaining, Brandon scored the takedown to go up 4-2. Wetzel got the escape with 13 seconds remaining to come within one, but it wasn’t enough, and Brandon earned the second Stansbury gold of the evening 4-3.
The Stallions’ third champion, Ian Rogers (215), wrestled an exciting first place bout to win his gold. Down 2-4 at the end of the first period, Rogers scored an escape and a take down in the second period to go up 5-4 to start the final period.
His opponent from Kearns escaped at the 1:26 mark to go up 5-6, but Rogers got a take down with 20 seconds remaining to reclaim the lead 7-5. In the waning seconds, his opponent escaped, but Rogers claimed the victory 7-6. He advanced to the finals on three pins and a 6-2 decision.
At 120 pounds, Tyler Khoundet advanced to the championship finals with victories by pin with only one match going into the second period (1:21; 2:57; and 1:04). In the finals, Khoundet lost by major decision, 12-0, to Timpanogos’ Connor Knudsen, and he earned the silver medal.
Tooele’s Ethan Garcia (190) and Dalton McQuiddy (285) placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Garcia lost in the second round and won five matches in a row to put him in the 3rd place match where he lost a close 5-4 decision. McQuiddy fell in the quarterfinals 3-0 to Green Canyon. He wrestled back to the consolation semis before being pinned and dropping into the 5th Place Match where he was pinned by Kearns in the third period.
The Cowboys’ Ethan Rainer (175) and Payton Yates (150) both earned third place finishes. Yates opened with a loss in the first round by fall before responding and earning six consecutive victories to take the third-place title. He won two matches by fall and four by decision, including the 3rd Place match with a 6-4 decision over Spanish Fork.
Rainer, who began with two pins and a major decision (11-2) in the quarters, fell in the semifinal match 7-6 in a close match. Rainer won his final two matches by major decision, 10-2, and decision, 7-6 to claim third place.