Sandy • Matt Findlay looks cool, collected as he prepares to step onto the mat. On the inside, though, it's a different scene.
"It's constant anxiety. State is just a whole different mindset," said the Alta junior, who will try for his third state title at the Class 4A/5A wrestling championships beginning at noon Wednesday at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center.
His dozens who are we kidding, hundreds of hours of preparation mean nothing if he can't win his next match. And the one after that. And two more after that.
Four wins from glory. One loss from disaster.
"You love it, but you hate it at the same time," Findlay said. "There's just so much at stake and so much you've worked for."
Findlay is the top seed in the 126-pound division, and boasts a 38-2 mark on the season. His two defeats were to wrestlers not in the field of 16.
Victory would make Findlay just the second Alta wrestler ever to win three state titles, joining Carson Kuhn. As a freshman, Findley trumped the 103-pound field. Last year, he was the 113-pound champ.
"At 126, it's a totally different experience in this class," Findlay said. "In the end, I've gotten bigger, they've gotten bigger. At 103, generally those kids aren't seniors who are really strong and have wrestled for a long time."
Alta coach Barry Harrington said above all, Findlay's success stems from his humble approach to every match.
"He understands he can be beat," Harrington said. "He doesn't ever overlook anybody. Even that 16th- or 32nd-seeded kid, he has the utmost respect for them and doesn't think it's going to be a walk in the park. He goes and gets after it.
"He's a very humble kid. You'd be amazed at the things he's accomplished, and he won't tell you."
Findlay is taking that same approach this week. His ultimate goal is to win four state titles, a feat accomplished just 16 times in the state. But that won't be possible without an unblemished run over the next two days.
"It's a goal I've had for a very long time," Findlay said. "The goal is four, but you can't get four if you don't get three. So I'll go out and give everything I've got."
Findlay is one of nine Hawks who qualified at last week's sectionals. He also is one of four state champs in the field.
Pleasant Grove's Kyson Levin (2012 champ at 106) heads the field at 113 pounds, Syracuse's Zane Rich (132) is a top seed at 138 pounds, and Layton's Ken Astle (138) is one of the favorites in the 145-pound field.
With 20 representatives in the 14 weight classes, two-time defending champion Pleasant Grove is the favorite to claim another 5A crown.
At UCCU Center, Utah Valley University
Class 5A and 4A • Wednesday, noon;Thursday, noon
Class 3A, 2A and 1A • Friday, 1 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m.