LAYTON — There have been 21 four-time wrestling state champions in Utah high school history. It's one of the highest accomplishments a wrestler in this state can get.
As the 6A/5A wrestling state championships begin this Wednesday and Thursday at Utah Valley University in Orem, there could be a 22nd four-time state champion, Layton High 138-pounder Terrell Barraclough.
From walking out under the lights his freshman year, a "horrible" nervous experience, Barraclough has emerged victorious in his bracket each of the past three years.
Surprisingly, Barraclough's better sport was soccer up until a couple years ago when he quit to wrestle full-time. It's funnier knowing that he never used to like wrestling.
"In seventh grade I hated wrestling, I didn't want to go and I told my dad all the time, 'Dad I'm going to quit as soon as I graduate high school,' and then I met Kevin Clem, he's one of the older brothers on our wrestling team. He wrestled for Purdue University and he just opened my world," Barraclough said.
"I had kind of a blocked mind, I was like, 'Man this just sucks, it's hard and I'm sweaty all the time and it hurts,' but he just showed me what a good person it could make me."
This year is a little different and it's not just because it's his senior year. His season was nearly lost in December due to a freak neck injury sustained in practice.
He's pretty much 100 percent now, just in time to make a charge at the title with a different perspective.
"You have to be happy that you're there every day, because one of the things I learned this last year is it could've been over for me," Barraclough said.
'I couldn't feel my arm'
Barraclough and a teammate were practicing around mid-December when he got tripped, had his arm trapped underneath him and fell on his head.
Falling is common in wrestling. What happened to Barraclough wasn't. It was serious, and he immediately knew it.
"I couldn't feel my arm and neck was on fire, there was a lot of pain, so then I just rolled over onto my back and I just couldn't move and I felt everything tightening up back here," he said, pointing to his shoulders and back. "And I was like, 'Oh no, oh no, oh no,' so John (Fager) came over and just said, 'Lay down, we're just going to get you off to the side,' so he kind of tried to help me up and it was the worst pain I've ever felt."
The "it" ended up being two herniated vertebrae in his neck, C5 and C6, and not a broken neck (and potentially a lot worse) as initially feared. Doctors gave Barraclough a neck brace, he sat out of practice for weeks and during that time, found out that he was born without a C1 vertebra.
The herniated vertebrae healed on their own without surgery, but Barraclough was nervous about wrestling again. Who wouldn't be, especially in a sport where your head and neck are often grabbed?
He slowly came back and eventually wrestled against Syracuse on Jan. 24, the first time he had wrestled competitively since the injury, but even after that match his neck was still a little sore.
As he was in the hospital right after the injury, doctors gave him muscle relaxers and he was able to start feeling his fingers.
But until two and a half weeks ago, he still didn't have feeling in his left arm from the elbow to the shoulder. So he went to see Dr. Craig Buhler, a chiropractor with offices in Kaysville and Draper.
Buhler was the team chiropractor for the Utah Jazz for 26 years and has been cited as one of the reasons why John Stockton was able to play for so many years.
"He just popped (my vertebrae) back straight and I just felt everything go, like fire," Barraclough said, running his hand along his arm. "It felt good, it felt really warm, tingly sensation back into my arm."
"I felt like a million bucks."
At the divisional meet a week and a half ago, Barraclough, who has a 13-0 record coming into the state meet, pinned his first four opponents and won in the finals when his opponent became injured.
It was the first tournament that Barraclough really felt like himself on the mat. That feeling usually means bad news for the other wrestlers in his weight class.
Nine of the 17 Layton High wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament are top seeds: Barraclough, Tayton Bennett (17-3, 126-pound weight class), Alec Bolingbroke (38-5, 170), Canyon Brann (29-10, 152), Cole Faust (32-10, 182), Aidan Harris (25-9, 113), Tyson Humphreys (27-4, 132), Quade Smith (25-9, 106) and Weber State football commit Jon Hunt (35-9, 285).
Then add two No. 2 seeds: Tanner Clem (29-13, 195) and Gage Howard (24-11, 132). The Lancers may have enough depth to best Pleasant Grove and Herriman for the team title.
Syracuse High is bringing 19 wrestlers to the tournament.
Kaden Montano (34-8, 285) and Samuel Sprehn (32-9, 170) are both top seeds, while Tytan Smith (31-9, 160) and Sutton Brown (27-15) enter as No. 2 seeds.
Fremont’s bringing 15 wrestlers, led by top-seeded Mason Denton (49-5, 126). Weston Warr (46-9, 285) enters with one of the highest win totals in the state.
Davis High has 13 wrestlers qualified, led by top seeds Heston Percival (32-8, 182) and Parker Coffey (33-7, 132).
Second-seeded Hunter Swalberg (35-10, 113) leads 10 Northridge wrestlers at the tournament.
Zachary Durbano (31-8, 182) has a No. 2 seed for Weber, the highest of the Warriors’ eight-wrestler group.
Zachary Phillips (15-7, 195) has a No. 4 seed from Clearfield. Four Falcons qualified.
Defending team champion Viewmont faces tough competition from Box Elder and Wasatch in its repeat bid. The Bees beat the Vikings for the Region 5 title and also beat Wasatch for the Division A team title.
Box Elder has five top-seeded wrestlers among its 22-person contingent. Those five top seeds are Bridger Ricks (36-4, 106), Trevor Murray (23-4, 160), Lucas Cochran (48-2, 182), Kellen Collier (26-10, 220) and Ryan Gunn (40-1, 285).
The Vikings have 17 wrestlers in the tournament, led by top seeds Tyson Zesiger (34-3, 195), Karson Rees (29-9, 126), Jeremy Evans (39-1, 152) and Lorrince Essig (30-4, 145).
Roy High has four wrestlers qualified, including top-seeded Donald Butler (27-6, 132).
Defending 106-pound state champion Parker Frasure is back for Farmington (he won the title at Viewmont in 2018) after what was thought to be a season-ending injury earlier this year.
The Phoenix has three wrestlers who are No. 2 seeds: Jake Anderson (23-14, 182), Austin Gillette (35-10, 138) and Naki Itaaehau (14-11, 220) as part of a 14-person contingent.
Woods Cross has two No. 2 seeds out of 11 qualifiers: Colton Erickson (43-5, 113) and Christian Smoot (41-9, 152).
Lincoln Duryea (21-14, 120) is the lone qualified Bountiful wrestler.
Bear River hopes it has enough depth to get past Uintah, Payson and Mountain Crest at the 4A championships, which begins Friday, Feb. 15 at UVU.
Trenton Ward (41-9, 106) and Scott Robertson (49-2, 120) are the two top-seeded wrestlers for Bear River. The Bears also have a pair of second-seeded wrestlers: Maverik Skinner (32-10, 160) and Weston Hirschi (37-14, 138).
Bonneville's Aaron Carty won the B Division championship at 220 pounds. Carty enters the state meet with a 21-4 record and a top seed.
Morgan High qualified 15 wrestlers for the 3A tournament, which also starts Friday: top seed Jarett Jorgensen (34-6, 120), second-seeded freshman William Korth (35-9, 106) and second-seeded Blake Woolsey (16-6, 113).