ST. GEORGE — Two Snow Canyon Warriors defined what it means to overcome adversity at the 4A state wrestling tournament.

Tag Gubler and Nia Hagler won individual state titles at the four-day event Feb. 14-17 at Utah Valley University in Orem.

The two grapplers shared stories of redemption after both lost in their respective state championship matches last year, then used that experience as motivation to capture the ultimate title this time around.

Gubler told St. George News that the sting of defeat made it easy to go in the weight room every day during the offseason and then work that much harder during the season.

Snow Canyon’s Tag Gubler defeats Uintah’s Caden Young in a 4A state wrestling championship match, Orem, Utah, Feb. 17, 2024 | Photo by Todd Phillips, courtesy Elsha Gubler for the St. George News

“Just kept working, growing and getting stronger little by little,” Gubler said. “We had some teammates last year that won it, and with me losing, seeing how happy they were, it motivated me to have the same feeling that they did.”

Gubler defeated Uintah sophomore Caden Young to capture the crown in the 285-pound division. It was a thrilling match that ended in a 3-2 ultimate tie breaker victory for Gubler.

An ultimate tie breaker takes place at the end of the final overtime period. The wrestlers start from the set position, one on bottom and one on top.

At the referee’s whistle, the wrestler on bottom tries to escape. The one on top tries to hold him down. The wrestler that succeeds in that one moment is the winner.

In Gubler’s case, he was on bottom and escaped from Young’s hold for the victory.

“It just kind of depends on your preference of style of wrestling,” Gubler said when asked if it’s better to start on the bottom or top in such a scenario.

“I’m more of a guy that can get away using my explosiveness so bottom was my preference,” he added. “I felt good. I had a good tournament. I pinned my way to the finals and just felt really good that week.”

The senior said that he is waiting to see what options he might have when he goes to college, whether he’ll be on the wrestling mat or on the gridiron. Gubler is a standout football player as well.

Fellow Warrior Nia Hagler knows just what Gubler is feeling after she won a 4A girls state championship two days before he won his title.

“She’s a very hard working person,” Gubler said of his teammate. “She deserves every bit of success that she gets.” 

Snow Canyon’s Nia Hagler won a 4A state championship, Orem, Utah, Feb. 15, 2024 | Photo courtesy the Hagler family for the St. George News

Hagler defeated Park City’s Noa Omessi in the finals and won the 4A girls title in the 135-pound division.

She said that losing in the state finals last year caused a feeling that she never wants to have again.

“For me, I hate the thought of losing more than I love winning,” Hagler said. “And that says a lot about me because I really like to win.”

Just a sophomore, Hagler earned All-American honors when she placed in a national tournament last year.

“I didn’t even win state, and then placed at nationals,” Hagler said. “It was funny in a way, I had imposter syndrome for a while. I thought maybe I wasn’t as good as people think I am.”

But then she dominated the division at state last week, winning all four of her matches convincingly by pinfall.

“Nationals says a lot about your skill and everything but winning at state, how I did it with the aggressive pins, being in that select club was kind of set in stone for me,” Hagler said.

Even more impressive, Hagler went on that state run about a week and a half after tearing a ligament in her knee.

“To quote Spencer Lee, ‘Excuses are for wusses,’” Hagler said. “Nothing was going to stop me.”

Lee is an ex-Iowa wrestler who famously won a national championship match despite having two torn knee ligaments at the time.

“He’s one of my wrestling heroes,” Hagler said. 

Hagler said she might not attend nationals this year so she can fully heal her knee and make sure that she’s ready for her last two seasons at Snow Canyon. 

But she has even higher aspirations, setting her sights on the Olympic Games.

“I want to do the best I can to get there,” she said. “If you’re not working hard and staying focused, you can bet your competition is. And I try to keep that in mind as much as I can so I’m always working harder than anyone else.”

Kayden Madsen from Crimson Cliffs also went out as a state champion. The senior defeated Hurricane’s Isaac Dickinson 2-1 in the tiebreaker to seize the state title in the 138-pound boys division.

Crimson Cliffs wrestler Kaden Madsen after winning a match at the 4A state wrestling tournament, Orem, Utah, Feb. 16, 2024 | Photo courtesy the Madsen family for St. George News

Being regional foes, Madsen and Isaacson grappled twice this season before the state finals. Isaacson won the first time, Madsen won at the Divisional round and then won the rubber match at state.

“Before state I expected it to be really tough,” Madsen said. “I knew Isaac is good on top, and tall, so he could ride pretty well. I knew if I got hand control and could stand up, I’d be able to get out (for the escape).”

Madsen won all four of his matches at state by decision and said he felt the most uncomfortable in his quarterfinal match against Zack McCann of Timpanogos.

“I had never wrestled him before and I struggled with his style for some reason,” Madsen said. “I always felt like I could win, but after the first period I knew it would be a nail-biter.”

Madsen prevailed 3-1 and went on to capture the crown. He said that his wrestling career at Crimson Cliffs was awesome.

“I love all my coaches,” Madsen said. “They’ve all helped me so much and without them I wouldn’t have been able to take it this year.”

The grappler loves the sport and said he will see what kind of options he has to pursue wrestling in college. He is the second wrestler in school history to win an individual state championship.

 “It feels good,” he said. “We haven’t been around for too long but it feels good to be part of the legacy that Crimson is starting.”

Lucy Harris from Desert Hills was the fourth Region 9 wrestler to bring back an individual championship. She swept the field at state, all four wins by pinfall, to claim victory in the girls 140-pound division.

Harris pinned Jordan’s Valeria Espinoza Morales in 53 seconds to win the state final match.

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