Gifted athletes routinely are surpassed by their less talented, harder working peers. Tom Brady went from college backup at Michigan to a 3-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, currently in pursuit for championship number four. Michael Jordan famously was cut from his Junior Varsity team and now he is the NBA’s “Greatest of All-Time.”
If two of the most prolific athletes of their respective sports had to outwork their fellow colleagues, imagine the work required for the typical jock. Utah Valley’s standout, sophomore wrestler Avery Garner was quick to learn this principle of success.
“When I was younger I wasn’t near the best,” Garner said. “I noticed that the (wrestlers) who worked the hardest consistently passed the guys with the most talent.”
Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Garner spurned the local Boise State Broncos and decided to sign with the Wolverines. Since joining UVU Wrestling during the 2007-2008 season, Garner has gone from recruited walk-on to earning a scholarship and becoming a centerpiece for the burgeoning UVU program. Wolverine head coach Greg Williams said it began with his will and determination.
“Avery has a great work ethic,” Williams said. “He works hard in the classroom, in his personal life and in the wrestling room. He helps set the tone for his teammates and how it should like for effort.”
Although Garner will admit he is reserved, quiet man, his actions on the wrestling mat speak for themselves. Despite being only a sophomore, he is among the elder grapplers on the team. His example and attitude have turned him into one of the squad’s leaders.
Garner has established lofty goals for himself, stating that by the end of his career he hopes to be a conference-winning All-American. His work habits and grit have led him to an impressive start to his career, notching a 20-15 overall record as a freshman and this year he has continued to grow. His next step is to compete with the upper echelon of his weight-class. Garner defeated Boise State grappler Ben Demuelle, but dropped two straight matches the following weekend, including a match to the No. 1 141-pounder in the nation, Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple. Williams said his approach and confidence level versus these contenders needs to change.
“We have been working with Avery on the mental aspect. He needs to know he has a chance to beat those guys,” Williams said. “These matches should be close. He has the talent to compete with all of them.”
Garner was pinned in the first period versus Maple. While the match didn’t go as planned, he gained crucial experience that he will draw upon as the season, as well as his career, goes on. As the team readies itself for Western Wrestling Conference play, Garner will take these experiences and build upon them.
“I was humbled and needed to refocus.” Garner said following his match with Maple. “I realized that I am nowhere near where I want to be so I need to keep working the hardest that I can.”
Travis Leavitt – Sports Writer