UVU wrestling: Wolverines send record 4 grapplers to NCAAs
Oklahoma City • The Utah Valley University wrestling team will send a program-record four grapplers to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships that begin here Thursday at Chesapeke Energy Arena.
"We're excited to get out there. We've got two guys that have been there before so they'll know what to expect," said head coach Greg Williams. "We've also got two seniors that are headed to there for the first time so we're excited for them as well.
Seniors Avery Garner (141 pounds) and Curtis Abner Cook (165) will head to the Big Show for the first time while sophomore 125-pounder Jade Rauser and junior 285-pounder Adam Fager will compete at nationals for the second time in their careers. Rauser, who was UVU's first-ever freshman to compete at the NCAA Championships a year ago, went 1-2 in 2013 while Fager finished his first tournament run with an 0-2 record.
Garner (14-8), Cook (7-7) and Rauser (10-3) all automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championships that UVU hosted on March 8. Fager (18-7) then received his second straight bid to nationals by getting picked up as an at-large selection a few days later.
"There's not going to be any easy matches during the tournament, and a couple of our guys received tough first-round draws," added Williams. "Just getting to nationals is an honor but we're hoping to get some wins while were there as well as get a kid or two on the podium."
Garner was Utah Valley's lone conference champion this year as he received First Team All-WWC accolades for winning the 141-pound weight class at the West Regional. Cook and Rauser placed second and third, respectively, to receive automatic bids in their weight classes while Fager - who was ranked 12th on the final NCAA Coaches' Panel Rankings and 15th on the final RPI - then picked up the at-large bid after taking second at heavyweight at the Regional.
This weekend will mark the fifth consecutive year that UVU will be competing at the NCAA Championships as it sent three grapplers to nationals in 2010, three again in 2011, one in 2012 and three again last season. Former 125-pounder Benjamin Kjar is the program's lone All-American as he placed fourth in his weight class during his senior campaign (2011).
Thursday's opening session begins at 10 a.m. MT, with session II getting underway that evening at 5 p.m. MT.
Fager will enter the tournament seeded 15th in his weight class while the other four will enter their respective fields of 33 unseeded. Rauser and Cook both received tough draws to open the tournament as they will face the first and second seeded wrestlers in their weight class.
Rauser will take on the defending national champion and top seed from Illinois Jesse Delgado (25-2) while Cook will go up against the No. 2 seed from Oklahoma State Tyler Caldwell (24-3). Garner will open up his inaugural NCAA's against No. 15 Anthony Collica (28-7) of Oklahoma State while the 15th-seeded Fager will take on Rutgers' William Smith (25-6) in his opening bout.