WENDELL — Sam Mitton has wrestled in a lot of third-place matches, but this year, he’s aiming for the 2A state title match.
He took a big step in that direction at this weekend’s Magic Valley Classic in Wendell, dominating his first-place match with an 18-3 technical fall after entering as the No. 3 seed. He was also named the most outstanding wrestler for the event.
Mitton, a senior at Oakley High School, has not found the championship match at the state tournament, but has always been right at the cusp of one — third place in 2015 and 2016, then fourth place in 2017.
“This year, I’ve just flipped a switch in my mind and said I just don’t want to lose anymore,” he said.
His win in the final event at Wendell started very quick, as he got a takedown and three-second near fall in the first 30 seconds, something he says isn’t often his strategy.
“I’m more of a slow wrestler,” he said. “Usually I pick out flaws and try to act on what I see, but I just took advantage early.”
Mitton is from a lineage of wrestlers. His dad, Zane, and one of his older brothers, Levi, were both state champion wrestlers. His younger brother, Isaac, wrestles with him at Oakley currently and finished fifth in the 132-pound weight class on Saturday.
“We’re just a family of wrestlers,” he said. “It’s what I grew up doing.”
While Mitton was the most outstanding wrestler, the Declo Hornets put up an outstanding performance as a team.
Declo finished second in the Classic, despite placing only one wrestler, Dawson Osterhout (220-pound weight class), in the finals. However, five of six Hornets in third-place matches earned victories.
“Second place isn’t what we wanted, but we did well today,” Declo head coach K.C. Wells said.
Ririe edged Declo for the team championship, blowing by the field with a score of 212. The Hornets finished with 178 points.
Declo is in a bit of a rebuild or reload, depending on who you ask. It’s a young team, and graduated its best wrestler, Ty Matthews, last year. Matthews currently wrestles for the Indiana Hoosiers, and consistently finished first last season, including a technical fall in the 182-pound final of last year’s 2A state championship.
But Wells said the goal isn’t trying to replace him.
“You don’t replace somebody like that,” he said. “You can’t expect to. But we have some natural leaders stepping up on our team. There’s a lot of youth on our team, but I see us as a team going father than last year.”
In 2017, Ririe won its second consecutive state championship, while Declo finished four places and 78 points behind the Bulldogs.
The competition on Saturday was stiff for Declo. The four teams that finished ahead of it in the 2A state tournament last year — Ririe, New Plymouth, Challis and North Gem — all participated, and Bear Lake fielded a tough team that finished only eight points behind the Hornets.
All in all, Wells was impressed with his team.
“I thought we matched up really well,” he said. “Honestly, I think we’ve been doing that all season, which is a good sign.”
Other local wrestlers had good showings in Wendell, as well.
Jake McGinnis of Gooding pinned his teammate Rodrigo Romero for the 285-poundtitle. McGinnis was handed his first loss of the season at the Rollie Lane Invitational on Jan. 6 but bounced back and strolled through the competition in Wendell.
Three Wendell wrestlers stood out in their home gym. Raphael Roque (126 pounds), Dale Schoth (132) and Teegan Dunn (138) all won their third-place matches. Roque earned a 5-2 decision, while Schoth and Dunn pinned their opponents for the victories.
Magic Valley Classic
Team scores: 1. Ririe, 212; 2. Declo, 178; 3. Bear Lake, 170; 4. West Jefferson, 137; 5. Malad, 136; 6. Soda Springs, 130; 7. New Plymouth, 117; 8. Salmon, 115.5; 9. McCall-Donnelly, 110; T10. Challis, 107; T10. Marsing, 107; 12. North Gem, 102; 13. Gooding, 91.5; 14. Melba, 90; 15. Wendell, 84.5; 16. Aberdeen, 83; 17. Oakley 71.5; 18. Firth, 57; 19. Raft River, 47; 20. Filer, 41.5; 21. Kimberly, 23; 22. Jerome, 20; 23. Glenns Ferry, 7; 24. Garden Valley, 4; 25. Wood River, 0