RICHFIELD – By JanDee Canfield – February 8, 2021
Each year the Bear River Jr High wrestling team starts the season with high hopes and expectations and while the course of this season would prove much different than any previous year, that would not deter the team from setting out to accomplish the same lofty goals as years past. The ultimate goal being to finish as the top team in Utah’s Junior High 4A state tournament and placing as many wrestlers as possible along the way.
There were a few times that any sort of a season looked questionable for the Bears when COVID-19 threatened to shut down wrestling in November, but coaches found a loophole under their club status that allowed them to keep practicing. With that allowance came strict regiments of masking, temperature checks and minimal parental involvement to limit exposure.
While the Bears maintained about 85 percent of regular practice time, official matches were cut down to about 50 percent of what they are used to wrestling during the season. Tournaments were kept smaller under state guidelines and most team duals were cancelled and coach Nate Wright, along with about 10 other coaches, did their best to help prepare their wrestlers each week to compete when the opportunities were allowed. But the Bears worked hard to stay focused on their goals under these unique circumstances.
The 2021 Utah Junior High state tournament was held in Richfield on Jan. 22-23, and the Bears took about 48 athletes to state - 42 boys and six girls aging from 4-8th grades to compete. The Bears proved ready to compete with two state champions and several state placers helping to compile the highest number of team points by the junior high program on Bear’s on record.
Daxton Chairez, claimed the title in the 4-6th grade heavyweight division. Daxton is a first-year wrestler who went into the tournament ranked fifth in the standings. He was able to pin each of his opponents in the first round, including his finals match, to secure his first state championship.
Max Anderson also claimed his first state championship in the 170-pound, 7-9th grade division. He also pinned his way to the top of the podium winning each match by fall. Wright also recognized Anderson’s contributions to the program adding that Max is a great asset in the junior high wrestling room and that he helps run practices and encourages his teammates with his natural leadership abilities. Wright added that there will be a gap to fill when Anderson goes into the high school program next year.
Alex Kunzler, Kody Wilson, Jaxon Morgan, Daxston Bingham, Chet Kunzler, Vincent Fertig, Aiden Hansen, and Randy Smith all stood on the podium in the number three spot.
Although the Bears scored an unprecedented amount of team points, it wasn't enough to capture the first-place title. They came in second place to Uintah by 54.5 points, yet out-scored Canyon View in third place by over 100 points.
With the circumstances of the year requiring extra commitment from each athlete to ensure any amount of success, Wright is very pleased with the overall outcome of this 20-21 season. He added that he places a strong emphasis on his teams willingness to accept the circumstances and work hard all while crediting a great coaching staff and community support for the opportunity these young athletes have to compete.