Brighton wrestling aims at powerhouse goal
Henry Barth locks an opponent during a match. Barth’s goal this season is to make it to the state tournament. (Jerry Christensen/Brighton High School)
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Over the past four years, Brighton High School Wrestling Head Coach Mitchell Stevens has worked to get the program back up to the one of the best in the state.
“Brighton has a great reputation for wrestling. It used to be the powerhouse and we’re trying to get it back to that point. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time and effort from a lot of different people in the programs we’re trying to grow,” Mitchell said. “They’ve won 16 state titles but it’s been a while. They’ve had a great tradition. Everybody likes to remind me how it was such a dynasty. But it takes time and a lot of work to make sure it gets back up there. We’re trying to get it back up to that place.”
Last year, the team qualified five players for the state tournament with two of those returning this year. The season will finish in February at the state tournament at Utah Valley University.
“We’ve done a good job. We’ve got a lot of youth who are freshman who came into the program. We’ve got some great upperclassmen,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have many seniors. We only have a few seniors. But in our freshman class, we’re starting to pick up kids from our feeder program.”
It is those upperclassmen Mitchell cites as the strength of the team, along with their leadership.
“Some of the areas we need to work on is we have a lot of youth, so we’re trying to get them up to speed. That’s where we spend a lot of our time,” Mitchell said. “We have some good youth and good kids who are coming in that we’ve been able to push along and they’re doing a good job this year.”
The high school works with the elementary and middle schools to develop wrestling feeder programs. The programs aim to teach youth the basics of wrestling so they have experience by the time they enter high school.
“Until that got going, you had a lot of kids with no experience, who had never wrestled before. So you’re making sure they have wrestling shoes and headgear rather than being able to pick up from what they learned,” Mitchell said. “Getting kids out of the feeder program helps a lot.”
Mitchell said his goal as a coach and as a program is to get his players better every single match so they are improving and are ready for the state tournament.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Mitchell said. “Everything else is practice leading up to that so I’m glad I have good people to work with and a good community for wrestling.”
Mitchell’s own son is one of the top competitors on the team. Brayden Stevens, a 17-year-old junior, was selected for the all-star meet in January where the best wrestler in each classification in each region is selected to compete.
“This was my second year going to the all-star meet,” Brayden said. “I did all right this year but not where I wanted to be.”
Brayden started this wrestling season bumping up in the 152 weight class and said it’s created different challenges for him as a competitor.
“Now, you have to use more techniques and you to be stronger than your opponent,” Brayden said.
He credits his three coaches for his success. Brayden wrestles all three in practice and they give him new challenges to overcome as an athlete.
“Each one of them has a different wrestling strategy and tactics, so wrestling with them gives me a better advantage out there whereas some of these kids don’t really use the moves that they use,” Brayden said. “It gives me a better advantage than my opponents.”
Seventeen-year-old Henry Barth is a senior who started wrestling when he was a kid and picked it back up in high school. He described his season as pretty good with the goal of the state tournament.
“I think my attitude is pretty good. When I lose, I don’t really get down on myself. I’ll listen to what coach has to say and use what he has to say to improve myself,” Barth said. “My goals are to go to the state tournament and place in it. I’m going to be working hard and play as hard as I can in the tournaments that we have leading up to it.”