LAYTON — There’s a reason only 23 wrestlers in Utah have ever won four state championships.
It’s a difficult accomplishment, what with the nerves, the pressure and the actual wrestling.
But this an interesting period for the sport which, for the third year running, will have a high school wrestler go for his fourth straight state title.
This year, it’s Layton High’s Tyson Humpherys.
In a rare occurrence, this is the second straight year a Layton wrestler has the chance to win No. 4.
In another unparalleled event, it’s the second straight year a Layton wrestler will go for a fourth title after suffering a serious injury.
In 2019, Terrell Barraclough herniated two vertebrae in his neck, nearly quit wrestling, came back and easily won the 138-pound title in 6A.
Humpherys’ freak injury? He got shot with a nail gun by his friend in carpentry class.
“He was looking over at me and talking, then he looked down and just, like, misplaced (the gun). Then it hit the top of the wood, it just like — the very top — it went through it, it just bounced up and right into my hand,” Humpherys said.
The nail went about an inch into his hand, in the space between his index finger and thumb on his dominant left hand.
“I thought the wood just moved, then I was looking at it, then I looked down and see that there’s a nail in it and I just go, ‘There’s a nail in my hand,’” he said.
His friend immediately said to not tell the teacher, which Humpherys responded with, “There’s a nail in my hand!”
The worst pain was when the doctor slowly took the nail out of Humpherys’ hand using a pair of pliers later that day, though the hand hurt for a couple days afterward and was generally sore after that.
It happened four days before the All-Star Duals at Utah Valley University, where he was one of the featured matches.
Humpherys couldn’t grip with his left hand, wrestled anyway, lost the match and is now back to full strength, or as close to full strength as he can possibly get.
A rash of injuries
Injuries have had Humpherys on speed dial for a few years.
He’s torn his right meniscus, his left meniscus and his right one again in the middle of last season, which forced him off the wrestling mat and into the swimming pool for two weeks to stay in shape.
At the state meet, Humpherys dominated the 132-pound bracket and won his third title. A few days later, he had surgery on the knee.
“That was pretty much my only conditioning when I went to state and my whole technique was just pin everyone, don’t risk it. Just pin everyone,” said Humpherys, who has signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Utah Valley University.
He’s had so many injuries and surgeries on his right elbow that a doctor once described it to him as if someone put his elbow down and stomped on it.
Yet here he is, viewed as one of the favorites to win the 6A 138-pound title and join the four-time state champ club.
Humpherys says he’s excited for the state tournament but that he’s not changing anything preparation-wise from what he’s done in previous years.
Up until this year, Humpherys says his wrestling style would be more reactive, defensive and end up in a lot of tie-ups.
As such, opponents would hardly go for his legs and so he didn’t get taken down often last year. This year, he’s changed his formula.
UVU coaches liked what they saw of Humpherys at a national tournament in Virginia Beach and said they thought he needed to take more shots and move more throughout a match.
Whether it was consciously or not, Humpherys applied the advice.
“This year I’ve been taking a lot more shots, singles, high crotch, I’ve been taking so many more than I’ve ever. And then leg riding. I leg-ride the crap out of people,” Humpherys said.
At the divisional meet, Humpherys pinned his first three opponents in 1:11, 1:06 and 1:37. He has a 32-6 record heading into the state tournament.
Humpherys has had numerous pins in the first period this season, something fans should heed before watching one of his matches, lest they blink and miss it.