BOUNTIFUL — Three Bountiful Braves wrestlers finished in the top six after this year’s version of the 4A state wrestling championships concluded, and the Braves as a team finished in 10th place.
It’ first top 10 finish in awhile proves that the Braves have steadily improved since Matt Ripplinger took over as the wrestling coach.
In just his third season as coach of Bountiful’s wrestling team, he’s taken the Braves from a 24th place finish in 2010 to a 10th place finish this season.
Other things may have kept the Braves from placing higher at state this year, but the overall improvement of the team over the years is something Ripplinger said he enjoys seeing.
“We have done a lot of improving since the first year I came here,” he said. “Last year we felt like we had a great tournament and we improved upon the previous year to take 17th place. This year was a tough tournament for us.”
Similar to last year, the Braves had three wrestlers finish on the podium after the tournament was over. Justin Horsley, at 132 pounds, matched his state finish from last season and placed sixth overall. A.J. Tovey, who moved from 170 to 195 pounds, moved up one spot from last year’s finish, placing fifth.
Junior Hamilton, who remained at 285, matched his placing from last season and finished fifth overall.
They were the only three to place in last year’s tournament as well, but Ripplinger thought the team had a better chance at placing higher than 10th with a little better luck.
“We had some bad luck with one wrestler, who qualified, but wasn’t able to wrestle in this year’s tournament,” he said. “Lamar (Gimmeson), a likely placer heading into this tournament, was injured in the middle of the state tournament and wasn’t able to finish. A.J. Tovey, who made it to the semifinals, got a concussion in the middle of that match and had to default to sixth place, and we obviously felt he deserved better.”
He was, however, happy to see that despite all the hardships at the tournament, the team was still able to finish ahead of Region 6 champion Clearfield, which finished 12th.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to place in the top ten at state, although we had hoped for a higher finish,” he said. “One more thing that made us happy is that we placed above most of the other teams from our region, except Highland who beat us by five points.”
The tenth-place finish left the coach with the idea that the program is moving in the right direction.
“To accomplish a goal we had set (earlier in the year) is a great thing for our program,” he said. “We keep getting better and we’ll want to finish better next year.”
Other highlights of the team’s season were having a finalist in the Layton Invitational Tournament (Gimmeson), two finalists in the Viewmont Invitational (Horsley and Joey Barnett, who finished first and second, respectively) and beating West by 35 points in a dual earlier this season.
The team also beat Highland, last year’s region champion, by six points, then followed it up by beating Woods Cross 54-12.
“Mason (Milligan, Wildcats’ coach) and I have a fun competitive rivalry between each other,” said Ripplinger. “We’re good friends, and it was obviously fun to get the win because of the rivalry. That duel solidified the team unity, which was a good thing going to region.”
The season also didn’t go without some recognition, as the team once was ranked seventh in 4A thanks to a 12th place finish at the Layton Invitational.
“We had four placers and one finalist ... which was great considering how tough that tournament was,” said Ripplinger. “It gave us a lot of recognition, and we look forward to next season.”