The Payson High School wrestling team brought home the state championship title on Feb. 8, keeping its streak alive for the seventh year.
Head coach Jeb Clark who had been with the team the last four years, said he is proud of his team for coming together during what has been a very challenging year.
“This season has been very different because of the pandemic,” Clark said. “COVID shortened our season by an entire month, so we weren’t able to get in as many matches in to prepare for state. Due to the pandemic and injuries, it wasn’t until late January when we were even able to put together a full team to wrestle at matches.”
All of it came together at the right time, however, when he had a full roster ready to go for the 5A state tournament.
And according to Clark, his team was strong going in, and he knew they had a solid shot at taking home the state title.
“With six state championships under our belt going in, we definitely had the upper hand, and we knew that the title was ours to take, but we would need to work hard,” Clark said.
“Wasatch and Box Elder have some great wrestling programs and winning histories. Wasatch actually beat us in a duel during the season, so we knew we had some tough competition.”
By the second round, however, the Payson Lions had secured enough points for a substantial lead. Clark said that doing this well so early on in the tournament was a testament to what a great team he has.
“We have such a great team full of awesome talent,” Clark said.
“Not only do we have the best varsity team in the state, but our JV team could compete well against most other varsity teams in the state. We had 24 of our wrestlers qualify for state, and 22 of them scored points — many from the JV team.”
Clark said that when the scores looked to be pointing in his team’s direction early on, that it gave his wrestlers a chance to enjoy the sport without a lot of pressure, and just have fun.
He said that it was good to watch his team do what they love.
“A lot of times, these championship tournaments come with a lot of pressure and stress, and it was really neat to see all the hard work pay off when they were given the chance to wrestle for the love of it.”
Clark wanted to say how proud he is of his team for coming together when it mattered most.
“Wrestling really is a team sport because you need every athlete to win,” Clark said. “Each one of them wrestled really well as a team. We won the state championship because we wrestled as a team.” (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)