Call it luck, or fate, or even a miracle. No matter what you call it, in the end it added up to a Region Championship for the Monticello Buckaroo wrestling team on Saturday night.
For the ninth year in a row, the Buckaroos earned the top spot at the southern division tournament. The championship was anything but easy for the Buckaroos, and going into the final round of the championship, it seemed to be already decided, with Panguitch leading by 31 points.
Mathematically, it was possible for the Buckaroos to earn a total of 36 points in the finals, but they would have to win all six of their championship bouts by fall in order to do so. However, it was not all up to the Buckaroos at that point.
Panguitch had four competitors in the final round as well. Even one win by the Bobcats would put the title out of reach of the Buckaroos. The Buckaroos needed 10 matches to go their way. It seemed impossible.
Milford handed Panguitch their first defeat at 106 pounds, followed by Buckaroo freshman Brayson Wilcox winning his first region title 4-0 in a hard fought match. Wilcox earned a fall and a 4-0 win in the preliminary rounds on his way to the finals.
Sophomore Shandon Bradford was up next, going head-to-head with Kolton Owens of Panguitch. It was a battle, but Bradford earned his championship title in a nail-biter, winning 3-2. In earlier rounds Bradford had two wins by fall.
Freshman Zac Musselman made it three in a row for the Buckaroos, winning by fall in the second period. Musselman earned both of his early round wins by fall in the first period.
At this point, the Buckaroos were still down by 17 points. Senior Brandon Musselman put on a fantastic show of domination at 145 pounds, winning his championship by technical fall, 18-3, in the third period. Musselman won both early matches by fall.
Senior Cole Eldredge followed with an impressive victory, building a healthy lead before winning his championship by fall early in the third period. In his first two matches, Eldredge was stellar, pinning both opponents in the first 30 seconds of the match.
With the Panguitch lead cut to 5.5 points and with only one match to go for the Buckaroos, they needed a little help. And they got it.
Panguitch lost both of their remaining finals matches at the hands of Wayne and left the fate of the ninth Buckaroo team championship in the hands of Buckaroo heavyweight, sophomore Parker Knudsen.
Knudsen needed to win by fall to give the Buckaroos the title. The first period ended with Knudsen behind 2-1.
Fans were on the edge of their seats as Knudsen won the coin toss and selected top position. Knudsen rolled his opponent only seconds into the period and fought off an attempted roll by the bottom man.
When the official slapped the mat 26 seconds into the period, the MHS gym was pandemonium as nearly every person in the house celebrated Knudsen’s region championship and a Monticello Region title with the closest margin of victory possible, half a point.
At the end of the day, six MHS wrestlers were crowned champions. Coach Kent Adair was rewarded for his efforts and the hard work of his team as coaches honored him as the Region Coach of the Year for the sixth time in ten years.
Buckaroo Junior Cole Eldredge made coaches stand up and take notice with his stellar performance and was voted the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler in the upper weights for the second year in a row.
Two Bucks fell just short of the championship round but finished strong after tough early losses to earn crucial third place medals. They are Paul DeAnda and Spencer Squires.
DeAnda came off a tough first round loss and won his next four matches, with a fall, and wins 11-3, 9-4 and 11-2 in the consolations finals.
Squires earned three big wins 14-3, 5-1 and had a 7-3 victory in the consolation finals.
Earning a spot in the consolation finals and earning fourth place medals are Tyler Draper, Clayton Westcott and Thomas Anderson.
Draper earned two wins by fall. Westcott had exciting 8-6 and 11-8 wins before a loss to Squires in the consolation finals. Anderson had four wins by fall on the day.
In a heartwarming tournament moment, Buckaroo Tacovi Warren volunteered to wrestle an exhibition match against Max Johnson, a special needs wrestler from Bryce Valley High School. Warren gave the fellow wrestler and the crowd a reason to cheer and made Buckaroo fans proud with his loss by fall.
The Bucks honored Johnson in his last match as a high school wrestler, presenting him a trophy and giving him a moment to shine on the podium.
Despite all their hard work, four Buckaroos did not qualify for the State Tournament. Dustin Christensen, who earned two wins by fall, Tacovi Warren with a win by fall, Drew Baird with a win by fall, and Seamis Barrell.
This weekend, the Buckaroos will close out their season at the Utah State Wrestling Tournament at Utah Valley University in Orem. The first round of 1A wrestling begins Friday at 3:30 p.m.