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West Jordan Journal

Jaguar wrestlers looking to pin down opponents

Feb 10, 2017 12:24PM ● By Greg James

West Jordan Jaguar junior John Earl is 19-5 this season. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James | [email protected]

The last four years of wrestling at West Jordan High School have been tumultuous. The team has had three coaches, but the enthusiasm the team leaders have this season has helped them see improvement.

“We are a young team,” said head wrestling coach Zan Elder. “We have several wrestlers that have never wrestled before. The team has five seniors, and for two of them, it is their first time. These are all good guys, and that can be part of the problem. We need to be more aggressive—not mean— and just go out there and get it. Wrestling is a sport with a steep learning curve, but the desire to win is still there every match. When we lose it is disappointing. We need to learn the holds and positions so we can take that next step.”

The Jaguars’ only team victory came this season in a 66-12 victory over Cottonwood.

Wrestling is an individual sport but also has a team element to it. During a dual event a team scores points based on how each individual match goes. More points are awarded to a team for pins than when a competitor simply has more points when a match’s full time has expired. 

“We are getting better at every tournament we go to,” Elder said. “We have seen that compared to last season.” 

The team captains, John Earl and Zach Obray, have become leaders.

“John and Zach are the team's hardest workers,” Elder said. “John is a fabulous wrestler. His losses have come to solid state-placing wrestlers. This is Zach's second year wrestling. They both believe if they do not give full effort they are not being honest with their team. Zach has made progress in not only his wrestling technique but in his mindset and belief in himself.”

Obray demonstrated his improvement in his Jan. 5 match against Mitchell Reese of Copper Hills. Obray trailed 3-2 and headed into the third and final period of the match. Reese positioned him on the bottom to begin the period. Obray escaped for one point and then took Reese to the mat to capture the 5-3 victory.

“I thought to myself, ‘Do I want to win, or do I want to lose?’” Obray said. “I chose to win, and I went for it.” 

Elder said many wrestlers lack experience but have plenty of desire.

Against Copper Hills, senior Tanner Labonty defeated Tyler Oakeson by a pin, and Sophomore Bryan Rogers also won by a pin over Jaeden Fowers. 

Rogers and his twin brother, Jeff, wrestle in the 106- and 113-pound weight classes, respectively. 

“Tanner is a senior and has lots of heart,” Elder said. “Brayden Bingham encourages everyone around him, and the Rogers twins just need to get more experience. They are all great kids, and I am glad I get to be part of their lives.” 

Elder is in his second year as head coach. He took over for former Jaguar state champion Gabe Vigil.

The Jaguars’ only wrestling state title came in 1997 under head coach Larry Jaramillo. They have had six individual state champions in school history, including Vigil, Matt and Ted Casto, Steve Babcock, Shawn Jensen and John Kendrick.

“I think our team is young and we have a lot of heart,” Earl said. “Every match is important to us.”