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The City Journals

Brighton wrestler looks to dominate in national tournament

Jul 25, 2017 11:04AM ● By Koster Kennard

Brayden Stevens poses for a photo on the awards stand with his peers after winning the state title. (Jerry Christensen/ Brighton Wrestling)

By Koster Kennard | [email protected]
Several of Brighton’s wrestlers are attending camps this summer, but none of their summer plans involve anything as prestigious as the tournament Brayden Stevens is going to attend.
From July 14 to 22, Brayden will compete in junior nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.
“It’s a tougher tournament,” said Brayden. “It’s not laid back at all. It’s the best of the best competing out there.”
To qualify for junior nationals, wrestlers have to place top four in their weight class in their state in either freestyle or Greco-Roman events. If a wrestler places top eight in either event at junior nationals, they’re named an All-American wrestler.
From June 21 to June 24, Brayden wrestled in junior national duals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he and his Utah team took 13th place.
“I just went for team Utah at 152 pounds and we wrestled against multiple states and I did pretty all right back there,” Brayden said. “I’m still not where I want to be. There’s always room for improvement.”
“I’m taking what I learned back in Tulsa and bringing it back to the room and practicing it every day with my dad and my other coaches to get better so that I can compete with them back in Fargo,” Brayden said.
Before wrestlers from Utah go to the tournament in Fargo, they head to camp W.G. Williams, a Utah National Guard training site just south of Bluffdale where Greg Williams and the UVU wrestling staff hold a required camp to prepare the wrestlers for Fargo.
“We have three sessions every day and we just go through technique, condition and kind of just prepare a little bit more for Fargo,” said Brayden. “Kind of like more of an intense camp so we get more prepared and more in shape than what you would do normally on your own.”
While at camp, the boys go through military-type training, including climbing ropes and running around the track.
“It’s kind of a kick-butt camp,” Brayden said.
Mitchell Stevens, Brayden’s father and Brighton’s head wrestling coach, also competed in Fargo when he was in high school.
“It’s very tough competition,” said Mitchell. “You get the best kids from all throughout the country and I remember them having over 150 or so kids in (my) bracket.”
Brayden competed in cadet nationals in junior high, which is part of the event in Fargo but for younger boys, and he competed in junior nationals last year.
“I didn’t do so great last year,” Brayden said. “I didn’t prepare for it at all. I’ve been going to more wrestling practices to prepare myself. Lifting and running and staying in shape.”
Brayden placed first in the 152-pound weight class in the Utah 5A division this past winter and placed second the year before as a sophomore.
Utah high schools wrestlers use folkstyle rules, but in Fargo they wrestle Olympic styles — freestyle and Greco-Roman — which are similar but have some different rules.
Brayden placed third at folkstyle nationals two years ago.
Brayden’s goal is to be named an All-American in both styles by placing in the top eight.
“I’m just going like no one can touch me,” Brayden said. “If you think that you’re invincible then no one can stop you. You’re just going in with that mentality that you know you’re the best and that will help you progress.”
Mitchell said many college wrestling recruiters pay closer attention to the Fargo tournament.
“It has the top kids from each state,” he said. “It helps them evaluate talent well.”
Though Brayden is probably the most active this summer with the junior nationals tournament and UVU’s wrestling camp, he isn’t the only one going to a wrestling summer camp this year.
Mitchell said there is a wrestling camp each week of the summer that boys could potentially go to.
“There’s a camp almost every week of the summer,” he said. “There’s been camps and kids have gone individually.”
Though boys ultimately pick their own camps — Brighton doesn’t have its own wrestling summer camp — Mitchell often gives them direction where to go.
“The camps that I direct them towards are the camps where I know the instructors are very good. There’s a camp coming up that I direct kids to in July up at Copper Hills High School called the Purler Wrestling Camp they would be a good camp to go to,” Mitchell said. “They’ve had some college national champions here at what’s called the Vector Wrestling Camps in Orem. Wasatch puts on a good camp each year.”
In the past, Brighton wrestling has gone to UVU’s camp as a team.
“I haven’t (run my own camp),” MItchell said. “That’s something that I’ve talked about and may do in the future, but I haven’t run my own camp yet.” 
Mitchell said he would like to see more wrestlers participating in offseason wrestling and camps.
“We’d be a lot better team if we had more kids wrestling in the offseason,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell understands that athletes are involved in other sports and that multiple camps can get expensive, but that he would love for his whole team to be competitive in the offseason like Brayden is.
“Kids — they want to be successful, but when it comes down to it, it takes effort to be really successful at wrestling,” Mitchell said. “It takes time in the weight room. It takes time at camps. It takes time going to private club practices and individual private lessons. It’s possible for anyone to do if they’re willing to put the time and effort into it.”
Mitchell said it is hard work that has allowed Brayden to be successful.
“My kids don’t stop — we’re constantly working out, preparing or going to private lessons or to club practices,” Mitchell said.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to be really good at your sport,” he said. “Like any sport. We’re in the weight room. We’re in private practices. We’re going to club practices. We’re going to national team practices. I mean there’s really not a lot of time off. It just depends on how good you want to be at your sport.”
Mitchell said offseason wrestling is directly tied to their team’s success.
“The more kids who do offseason wrestling, the more successful our high school wrestling team is going to be,” Mitchell said. “We’re building it every year and I think it’s getting better and better each year.”