Rivals wrestle for bragging rights
BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
BOUNTIFUL — The rivalry between the Bountiful Braves and Woods Cross Wildcats will extend from the basketball court to the wrestling mat as the cross-town rivals prepare to face each other Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Bountiful High School.
With both team’s preparing for next Wednesday’s Region 6 championships, both the Braves and Wildcats will look to carry some momentum from the match to the championship tournament next week.
“It’s fitting that the final region dual match of the season is against hometown rivals,” said Braves coach Matt Ripplinger. “It makes it fun to have a competition between coaches that have begun their careers at about the same time, and every year it’s been fun match that both schools look forward to.”
Both teams will enter the wrestling dual with very similar region dual records. Woods Cross, at 3-1 in Region 6 duals, has improved a lot since beginning the season in November, and has looked forward to facing Bountiful all season.
This season the Wildcats have been led by senior captain Kyle Nelson, who has “been a standout performer on and off the mat,” said Wildcats coach Mason Milligan.
Junior Sam Cottom, at 22-4 this season, went undefeated in the Royal Duels and won his weight class at the Rockwell Tournament, held last weekend at Bountiful High School.
“He’s right on track to finish the season well and place in state,” said Milligan.
Davis Halls, a sophomore, is 23-10 this season and has been garnering a lot of attention from other schools, said Milligan.
“He’s a polite young man,” said Milligan, “but once he steps into the mat, he’s an animal.”
Mason Newton, also a sophomore, is 16-7 and has seen some of the best wrestlers in the state as well.
No matter who is standing out this season, however, Milligan said he’s just as excited to face Bountiful as Ripplinger is to face them.
“They have an awesome program and Matt Ripplinger has really grown that team very well,” he said.
Ripplinger agrees, adding that facing a coach with a similar amount of years at a rival school is something that’s fun to be a part of.
“This is my fourth year (at Bountiful) and Mason’s third (at Woods Cross), which makes it fun to have a competition between coaches that have begun their careers at roughly the same time,” said Ripplinger. “Every year it’s been a fun match that we’ve looked forward to.”
Both coaches said they believe the match will come down to one or two key matches Thursday night, and both have given credit to the opposition for having good seasons so far.
“Our matches against other schools has been pretty close, too,” said Ripplinger. “We beat Highland by six points, they beat Highland by six points. They beat Cyprus by one match, we lost to Cyprus by one match. We had the same approximate score against Clearfield as well, so we think it should be a very competitive dual.”
Ripplinger pointed out a handful of matches that fans should be excited for Thursday night.
At 126 pounds, Jeff Adams for Bountiful and Davis Halls for Woods Cross are expected to keep the match close. Joey Barnett and Kyle Nelson at 138 pounds are also expected to battle to the final whistle.
At 145, Lamar Gimmeson and Brooks Fletcher is a match Ripplinger also believes is worth watching, and Josh Barnett and Zak Peterson, at 152 pounds, will also light some fires in the crowd.
Ripplinger also likes the A.J. Tovey and Cottom match, set for 195 pounds.
“Whichever team wins the majority of these key match ups probably will determine the winner of the dual,” he said. “We expect them to be very close, very exciting matches.”
Milligan added that the team will be as prepared for Bountiful as they have been for any other dual or tournament, and looks forward to battling for what could be a very close final score.
“We are still young and growing, but we have seen a new culture this year in our wrestling room that has made a sound difference this year,” he said. “The past few years they’ve gotten the better of us. We’re hoping to change that and establish ourselves in the state competition as well.”