Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Former Brighton history teacher, coach writes book about school wrestling dynasty

Oct 21, 2020 11:07AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton Bengals can enter the AP Capstone program, which challenges and showcases top academic learners. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

With more than 70 individual state titles and almost 50 second-place finishes in Brighton High’s 50-year history, wrestling has been a dynasty.

The school has been state champions 14 times and has earned its name in the record book.

That record book is now being written by former Brighton history teacher Dave Chavis, who served as the Bengals second head coach and was named to the Utah Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“Every year, I gave my wrestlers a booklet about how we did that season, but I’m realizing that some of our history now is being lost,” he said about the book he’s compiling from 1970 through 2020. “The book highlights where we were to what we’re doing now.” 

While he has an initial draft of the book, Chavis continues to add to it. He has plans to make it available soon so community members who want to support the program could make a donation of $20 or more and receive the Brighton wrestling history and record book as a thank-you gift.

The book reveals the record number of Bengal wrestlers who placed in top six places in state and short profiles of the coaches who helped them get there, including Coach Don Neff, who started the program and was a two-time NCAA place winner and All-American, through to current Coach Jedd Jones, who coached the Bengals to a 22-dual meet win this past year.

There are profiles and photos of some of the school’s top wrestlers, including some of the three, three-time state champs and 14 two-time state champs. There are highlights of the national championship meet winners and college All-Americans.

The Brighton High wrestling book also highlights the Dave Chavis in Excellence Award winners, an honor given annually to a graduating senior who has excelled both on the mat and in the classroom, as well as the records of each year, including the prestigious Battle of the Ax wins against rival Hillcrest High.

There are some wrestling moments captured in photographs and personal tributes, including one from Donald Kay Christenson, who said his time on the mats was “a life well spent” and one written by team supporter Penny Petersen, who details how she learned to appreciate the sport from going “out on the mat alone in a funny uniform” to learning how wrestlers “can win or lose a match with one move.”

There’s even highlights from the wrestling squad’s 50th-year reunion, held in July 2019, before the rebuilding of the new school began on the same campus.

Chavis, who has returned to help in the wrestling room both on the mats and announcing meets since his retirement, said he isn’t compiling the book alone. He credits Don Neff with creating a spreadsheet on how every Brighton wrestler has performed in school history, Jerry Christensen helping with the research and photography, his wife, Jackie, on editing, and “almost every wrestler” for contributing information and photos to help complete the book.

Chavis hopes to have it bound in a way that additional annual sections can be added, so the history of Bengal wrestling can continue to be complete.