Beginning the 2022- 2023 season in November of last year, Middle School Coaches Anson Clarkson, J.D. Wright and Mike Downward began working with ten boys, teaching them the basics to folk-style wrestling. The program saw growth through the year, finishing the season with 23 boys coming to practice.
“We could have never expected this type of growth in our first season,” Coach Clarkson said. “The boys came out, some with no experience, and worked hard every day.” The team experienced an influx of wrestlers after the basketball city recreation league finished their play. “When those basketball boys finished their season, we couldn’t find a room big enough for practice. We had to start following the high school team to have a room big enough for us,” said Clarkson.
Coaches, parents, and wrestlers found themselves spending many evenings traveling to southern Utah towns for matches and tournaments. Cedar City hosted two round robin tournaments. Panguitch also hosted a tournament in the Triple C Arena. Several wrestlers made it to the Beehive Brawl, a national tournament bringing in wrestlers from all over the county.
On Friday, the program took 11 boys to the Middle School State Tournament in Richfield, Utah, to compete against all the other 1A to 4A Middle School wrestling teams in Utah. Over the two-day tournament, Kanab wrestlers exceeded expectations, with six boys making it through the first day. It was a double elimination tournament, so two losses sent wrestlers home with no awards. 112-pound eighth grade wrestler, Korban Brown, fought several tough matches and refused to give up easy points. Eighty-pound fifth grade wrestler, Trace Wright, clawed back from an early loss by winning his next three matches. Kanab celebrated two state placers: Jude Forsyth wrestled 10 pounds over his weight and took home the sixth place medal, and Dylan Stubbs represented Kanab well, as he won the first place medal.
In his semifinal bout, Stubbs beat his opponent with a technical fall by outscoring his opponent 16-0, finishing the match in the second period. In the championship match, Stubbs got stuck early giving his opponent a 4-0 lead in the first few seconds. He quickly rebounded in the second period and was up 6-4. As the second period finished, Stubbs brought his opponent back to the mat with a routine move. The opponent was unable to get up and medically forfeited the match.
“With any program, you hope it can grow into a strong tradition of success,” Clarkson said. “The parents’ support made the program happen. Next year, we hope we can receive more support from the school and community to build a tradition of competitive wrestling teams for Kanab.”