All season, the UVU wrestling team had been working towards more wrestlers making it to the national stage and prove that this wrestling program is the real deal.
On March 9, Jade Rauser (125 lbs), Josh Wilson (149) and Adam Fager (285) got one step closer to that reality as they qualified for the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships by winning their respective brackets in the WWC Tournament. Avery Garner (141), Abner Cook (165) and Monte Schmallhaus also made it to the finals of the tournament, but fell short qualifying for nationals as their weight class took only one wrestler to the big stage.
The team was close to getting the goal of getting as many wrestlers as possible to nationals and could have had six out of ten go to the big dance. Despite being so close to that goal, Head Coach Greg Williams was still impressed with the results.
The three wrestlers that placed have potential to make some noise and do well in the tournament. Wilson and Fager both won their brackets. For Wilson, it meant going through the No. 3 wrestler in the nation, Cole VanOlhen of Air Force. Wilson had a 1-0 advantage when VanOhlen got injured and had to forfeit.
This was Wilson’s second go-round in the tournament. Last year, Wilson went 2-2 in the tournament. This year, Wilson had the opportunity to build on the experience from last year and come out with great results.
“Josh went 2-2 last year and is capable of improving on that this year,” Williams said. “He has been overlooked a bit this year but is very capable of placing if he has a good tournament.”
Wilson will face the one-time All-American from Oklahoma Nick Lester in the opening round of the tournament.
Rauser has been a great talent all year, and it’s really no surprise that he qualified for the tournament. He has been a burst of energy for the team and has won some really impressive matches this season.
Rauser had a difficult time getting to nationals, unlike the others. Rauser was the top seed in the tournament and lost two matches early and had to wrestle for the fourth and final spot in the tournament where he was successful.
Despite having a rocky road to nationals, Rauser was able to show he is a great wrestler. He faced the two-seed and former All-American Jesse Delgado from Illinois in the tournament.
“Jade has beaten at least three wrestlers in the top 15 this year and has shown he is capable of competing well at this level,” Williams said. “He did not have a good tournament at the Western Regional and he is very tough. He will bounce back and wrestle well next week.”
Fager had beaten every opponent in his conference before the tournament and had earned the No.1 seed in his weight class. That streak continued as he won out the tournament and punched his ticket to nationals. Fager began his tournament run in the pigtail round against Iowa State’s Matt Gibson.
The team certainly has a lot building off for next year; the third place finish at regionals was the highest in school history. The team was close to having multiple guys going to nationals and can pull it off in the near future.
“The guys will work hard to improve on this year’s performance” Williams said. “We will set a goal to win conference, get more guys to nationals and get some All-Americans.”