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Husky wrestling returns to podium with Gist, Mahe

Mar 30, 2017 12:02PM ● Published by Travis Barton

Sariah Gist lifts her opponent during a match. Gist at 126 pounds finished third at the all-girls state tournament. (Steve Carnahan/MyTopPix)

Gallery: Husky wrestling returns to podium with Gist, Mahe [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com

Keala Mahe didn’t make the basketball team when he tried out a year ago. Now he’s one of the top wrestlers in the state.

Mahe, a junior on the Hillcrest High School wrestling team, took fourth place at 220 pounds at the 4A state championships in February.

“Just knowing that all the hard work pays off, all the running, all the conditioning, listening to coaches talk about the same things over and over; but just knowing that all of it paid off, it makes you feel good,” Mahe said.

In 2016, Mahe came up one match short of the placing rounds (sixth or better). With his commitment level raised this season, he achieved his goals.

“He had all of the tools to do well last year,” said head coach Gentry Gasser. “But (this season) he was more committed and more excited and worked harder from day one to day end-of-the-season. He was working as hard as he could to get better and that was what made the difference for him.”

Mahe said he was frustrated with how he had ended in 2016, and it was his trust in his coach that pushed him higher. After winning his opening matches of the season, Mahe received an important tip.

“I remember Coach told me I can’t do the same thing over and over again, ‘you gotta try new moves or you gotta try what the coach wants’ because if we trust in what the coach wants then I’ll have the success that I wanted, and I did,” Mahe said.

In the final two tournaments of the season, Gasser said Mahe defeated a lot of wrestlers who beat him earlier in the year. “He just learns and makes improvements every time he steps on the mat,” he said.

Heading into next season, Gasser said the sky is the limit for Mahe.

“If he comes out with the same drive next year and gets a little bit of extra time in the offseason, he’ll be challenging for a state championship and should be making a bigger splash in some of the bigger tournaments,” he said.

But Mahe, the first Hillcrest wrestler to place at state in at least five years, wasn’t the only Husky to step on the podium. Junior Sariah Gist at 126 pounds placed third in Utah’s all-girls state wrestling tournament.

“Her ability to go out and wrestle with the girls and do really well just shows that she’s got the capabilities there so it was really cool for her,” Gasser said.

Gasser said the all-girls tournament had 40 wrestlers total, compared to 13 it had a year ago. Gasser expects its popularity to increase, which bodes well for Hillcrest.

“I’ve been here four years and we’ve always had two or three girls on the team every year. I only see that number growing,” he said.

Gist follows in the legacy left behind by Zamantha Mulder, the first female wrestler from Utah to earn a college wrestling scholarship. She is now a sophomore at McKendree University in Illinois.

Huskies had two other wrestlers qualify for state in senior Alex Wonders and sophomore Noah Nicholls. Though it may not come as quick as the coach would like, it’s part of the building blueprint.

“Getting kids qualified for state, getting kids placing at state, it’s all part of the process. It’s slower than I’d like it to be as a coach but we’re making that progress,” Gasser said.

Gasser and the coaching staff hope to spend more time working with the wrestlers in the offseason to go along with increasing the numbers of the program.

“If they can get out on a mat in a competition, they will fall in love with it and they’ll never quit,” he said. “Our big push right now is to increase the numbers of wrestlers we have and we think that will help push us to the next level.”

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