College sports are unique. Whenever a tournament comes to town, anticipating a national champion to be crowned, there is some magic and mystique in the air. March usually holds strong for basketball with all the madness going on, but what most people don’t know is around the same time, wrestling also holds a tournament to determine its champs.
UVU sent three wrestlers to Des Moines, where they took on competitors in the NCAA Division 1 National championship tournament held on March 21-23. Jade Rauser (125 lbs), Josh Wilson (149) and Adam Fager (285) all helped bring some attention to a program on the rise as they competed for respect among some of the most elite programs in the country.
For Wilson, this was his second consecutive year at the tournament. He was hopeful with his experience last year, hoping to perform even better and advance even farther in the tournament. Wilson dropped his first match to returning All-American Nick Lester of Oklahoma, in a close bout 4-3.
Losing the first match meant an uphill battle for Wilson, but he continued to fight and won his next two matches. One match was against another All-American, Derek Velenti of Virginia. He seemed to be gaining some momentum, but Wilson’s 2013 run then came to a close with a tough 5-3 loss to the eight-seed from Virginia Tech, Nick Brascetta.
After a scoreless first period,
Wilson got on board with an early escape in the second period. Brascetta then took the lead with a takedown, but Wilson tied it back
up at 2-all with another escape.
Brascetta later pulled ahead in the third with an escape and a takedown to take a 5-2 advantage. Wilson countered back with an escape but couldn’t get the late takedown to tie the bout as he fell by two.
Wilson was two wins shy of becoming an All-American.
“Josh wrestled a solid match against Valenti and gave himself an opportunity,” said UVU head coach Greg Williams. “He was also in a good position against No. 8 Brascetta but just couldn’t get it done. Josh is good enough to place here, you just have to win the matches at the right time, and it’s disappointing for him.”
This could have been the end of a great career for Wilson. Due to an injury, earning a medical exception, Wilson was out two consecutive seasons but is able to regain a year of eligibility, although he is listed as a senior.
Jade Rauser (125) had a remarkable season, showing up No. 16 on latest Intermat rankings and became the first freshman from UVU to qualify for the tournament.
Like Wilson, Rauser dropped his first match to No. 2 seed Jesse Delgado of Illinois in a major decision, 13-4. Delgado went on to win the tournament. Despite the loss, Rauser was able to bounce back as he pinned his next opponent, Joseph Duca from Indiana. Unfortunately for Rauser, his run was cut short on day two of the tournament as he took on Michigan’s Sean Boyle with a 10-6 loss. Despite only posting a record of 1-2, Rauser will have taken home great lessons and experience from this tournament, having more of an advantage in the tournament with years to come.
“Jade has a couple of areas that he needs to improve on but he showed a lot of fight this morning [March 22],” Williams said. “This is a tough tournament, and you can’t make mistakes if you want to do well here.”
Although qualifying for the tournament is no small feat, Fager unfortunately packed it up early, losing two. After Fager had placed first in his weight class at the conference tournament and All-Conference first team this season, success is only escalating in years to come.
The future looks bright for the Wolverines, as they continue the trend to improve over the years.
“I’m proud of all three of our guys as well as the entire team this year,” Williams said. “There are a lot of positives that we’ll take back from here.”
As proof that the program on the rise, this year saw seven wrestlers named on the WWC All-Conference team. Josh WIlson (149) and Adam Fager (285) were both named first team while Avery Garner (141), Abner Cook (165) and Monte Schmalhaus (174) were named to the second team. Chasen Tolbert (133) and David Prieto were honored with being named to the third team.