The famed Battle of the Ax, one of Utah’s longest-standing high school sports rivalries, is celebrating its 50th anniversary to coincide with the 50th year of Brighton High.
It was the 1969 opening of Brighton, in fact, that led to the creation of the Bengals’ annual wrestling competition against Hillcrest High. Brighton was built to accommodate growth in the southeastern portion of Salt Lake County, and stood to inherit some of Hillcrest’s students. Bengal wrestling coach Don Neff and Hillcrest coach Tex Casto came up with the traveling trophy as a way to build school pride while preserving a united spirit of community through sportsmanship.
This year’s event takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. at Brighton. It will be the last time that the competition will be held at the current Brighton campusor the current Hillcrest campus, for that matterbecause both schools are being completely rebuilt. Coaches Casto and Neff are expected to be honored at the event alongside former student wrestlers.
“In 50 years, a lot has changed. Computers fit in a pocket and phones no longer need a cord. Entertainment is on demand, and cars drive themselves,” notes this Deseret News story about the competition’s golden jubilee. “The one thing that has not changed is how two communities feel about a rivalry started 50 years ago by a couple of guys hoping to promote the sport of wrestling.”