RICHLAND — Step onto the wrestling mat with Dustin Utecht, and you won't get many breaks.
Expect plenty of action and a lot of aggression, a constant, pressured pace meant to break down opponents.
But no breaks.
"He's excellent on his feet, and his aggression is second to none," Richland Bombers coach Scott Surplus said of his senior 135-pounder. "The way he goes after matches, he breaks a lot of kids.
"He's just nonstop the entire time."
It boils down to this: Utecht does everything he can to outwork everyone else 365 days a year, so he's not about to let up for 6 minutes on any given night.
"What I like about it is the work," said Utecht, who has the same approach whether he's working to be the best wrestler in the state or welding a 6-foot metal flower for art class. "I like pushing myself. I feel good at the end of practice.
"I sleep well."
His opponents, on the other hand, not so much.
Utecht is 25-2, with those two losses coming on close decisions to Mead's Jeremy Golding, who won the state title at 125 last season.
He has won three tournaments this season wrestling up at 140 and finished third at the Inland Empire Invitational and second at Tri-State, one of the toughest tournaments in the Northwest.
"He's a tough kid," said Chiawana 130-pounder Nick Garcia, who split two matches with Utecht last season and wrestles with him on the Big River Wrestling Club. "He's definitely solid. He loves the fireman's (carry), and I know I have to keep him off my legs --he's pretty good finishing shots."
Utecht comes from an athletic family. His dad, Tim, played baseball for Kennewick and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. Legendary Lions coach Dean Hoff once called Tim one of the two best hitters to play for him.
The only son of Tim and Cindy, Dustin has an older sister, Amity, and a younger sister, eighth-grader April, who plays softball.
He grew up watching his cousins wrestle for River View before giving the sport a shot in sixth grade. And right away, it became evident that he had a lot to learn.
"I sucked," he said. "I won one match my first year.
"But I liked the challenge of trying to get better at it. I like the challenge of taking on other people one-on-one rather than the team thing. There's no one else to blame when you get beat."
Utecht was a natural fit for the sport. Aside from loving a challenge and not shying away from hard work, he's also naturally disciplined, which comes in handy for a demanding sport in which you have to be tough as nails but also watch what you eat.
After a rough first season, he turned a corner the next, winning his first tournament as a seventh-grader. By the time he was a freshman at Richland, he was ready to be the team's starting 125-pounder.
It was a solid season, resulting in a second-place finish at district, though ending with a disappointing sixth at regionals.
The next season brought another runner-up finish at district and fourth at regionals, earning Utecht his first trip to Mat Classic in Tacoma. He didn't place at state that season, but he came back as a junior to win his first district title, take second in regionals and place fifth at state, finally getting his hand raised after his final match of the season.
"That was a good feeling," he said of the podium finish.
Utecht qualified for freestyle and Greco-Roman nationals in Fargo, N.D., last summer. He didn't place but said the experience was incredible.
"I loved it," he said. "It was just breathtaking. When you go there, you can feel it's nationals. This is what it's all about."
This year, Utecht is ranked second overall in the state at 135 behind Golding, which means he's on track to have a shot at reaching his goals.
"It's to take state," he said, "and my second goal this year is to go back to nationals, place and be an All-American."
Lofty plans, indeed, but Utecht wouldn't have it any other way.
"I find that if I make it bigger, I'm more accepting to achieving the goal," he said. "If I make a lot of little goals (leading to something big), on my way up, I'll end up quitting."
And that's just not in the cards for this hard worker.