Kearns' Gus Lavaka takes on two sports in same season

Prep sports • Already a football standout, senior takes on basketball and wrestling.
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Right off the bat, know that Gus Lavaka is unusual.

In these days of specialization, participating in two sports is almost a thing of the past. Lavaka has taken that a step further: He's a four-sport athlete at Kearns High.

The senior, who most surely will play football at the collegiate level — the wait-and-see game of exactly where the big lineman will play has begun — has attempted to combine two sports of the same season. Lavaka, one of Utah's finest heavyweight high-school wrestlers, is also playing basketball.

Imagine the bluntness of a pick set by this 6-foot-4, 300-pound post man.

"I like to compete," Lavaka understated. "I wanted to play basketball."

So, when Kearns basketball coach Dan Cosby inquired about the possibility of him playing hoops, Lavaka was all ears.

Wrestling coach Tyson Linnell was cautious but agreeable, with the understanding that wrestling, should a conflict occur, would take preference.

"I understood [Cosby's] frustration," Linnell said. "[Lavaka's] friends are playing. Wrestling gets him in better shape for basketball."

Kearns football coach Bill Cosper supported the call for Lavaka to play basketball — but as the school's athletic director, Cosper wanted Lavaka to participate in basketball for more practical reasons.

Kearns enjoys the large student population that comes with being a 5A school in Region 2. But as far as student participation in athletics goes, Kearns comes across as a much smaller school. Fewer than 200 male athletes play sports, so while coaches at other schools may push athletes to focus on one, maybe two, sports, the focus is different at Kearns.

"I push our kids into multiple sports," Cosper said. "It's a good thing. It keeps the students involved and it helps them keep on track with academics.

"Gus works pretty hard. He works his tail off and he's one of the best high-school linemen I've ever seen."

It is part of Lavaka's character that allows him to take part in multiple sports in the same season.

"He's a good all-around kid, never been in trouble" said Linnell, who met Lavaka in club wrestling as a 10-year-old who, even then, was big. "He's hard to miss in the hallways."

Lavaka's daily routine outside the classroom begins at 2:10 p.m. with basketball practice.

At 3 p.m., he hustles to the wrestling mats. After wrestling, Lavaka, a runner-up in the 285-pound wrestling division at state as a junior, returns to the court to shoot hoops.

As for study, "I try to finish during class."

There is some frustration at having to give basketball less attention. But once wrestling season ends, Lavaka's attacking basketball head-on.

So, the disadvantage of trying to squeeze two sports in the same season is obvious: scheduling.

What are the advantages?

"I surprise opponents a little bit when I'm on defense when I use a wrestling move," Lavaka said. "Wrestling keeps me balanced, gives me more upper-body strength."

There's no doubt that football is Lavaka's favorite sport. Although he was a two-way player for Kearns this season, he'll most likely play on the offensive line at the next level.

The ultimate for him, of course, would be to find a school that would allow him to wrestle and play football. The odds are slim.

Chances are Lavaka's rugby days will be over once he begins playing college football. He appreciates rugby because, unlike football, he actually has a chance to score.

"I will this year, hopefully," he says.

Lavaka is a competitive kid who likes to play video games and relaxes by swimming.

But rival coaches and swimmers shouldn't worry — there's no danger of him trying out for the swim team.

"I'm too slow," Lavaka said. —

Gus Lavaka file

As a junior, Lavaka placed second at state in the 285-pound weight class. He has competed in basketball, football, wrestling and rugby at Kearns.

Lavaka wants to play football at any of the big three Division I in-state schools.