Photo credit: Gabi Campbell
Anyone who has played sports knows the satisfaction that comes after a job well done. All of the hard work and effort seems to have paid off and the fruits of your labors can be seen. For the UVU wrestling team, those successes have grown in numbers, with a number of wrestlers going to nationals and a hope that those numbers will continue to grow in the future.
The Wolverines worked hard this past season and a lot of the wrestlers had big expectations of what the year could be. While some didn’t make the goals they made, the season was not tarnished by those unmet goals. The one thing the team can take pride in is a jump in improvement.
History was made for the program that has been improving over the years, as a record-setting four wrestlers made it to the national stage. Jade Rauser (125 pounds), Avery Garner (141), Abner Cook (165) and Adam Fager (285) all accomplished the goal of making it to nationals.
Despite not meeting the goals they had made to place in the tournament, and all four wrestlers went on with a combined 1-and-8 record, the experience will help the returning grapplers Rauser and Fager in upcoming seasons. For Garner and Cook, making the tournament was a good way to end their career.
“It’s obviously a disappointment that we didn’t perform better out here [national tournament in Oklahoma City],” explained head coach Greg Williams “We felt we had two wrestlers who were good enough to have a shot at the podium. That didn’t happen and it hurts, but this is a tough tournament with many great wrestlers, so I will encourage our guys to keep their heads up.”
Cook, Garner and Monte Schmalhaus (174) are the seniors that are departing the program. All of the wrestlers have had a lot of success while wearing a Wolverine singlet. Schmalhaus finished second in the conference tournament as a junior and finished fourth this year.
Garner capped off his season in a great way, having been so close to making it to nationals before and falling just short, a conference championship was perfect for the former walk-on.
“I wanted to go to nationals; that has always been a dream of mine,” Garner said after his championship victory. “To have this conference title and know I’m going to nationals is pretty awesome.”
Cook had some injuries plaguing him throughout the year and had to sit out some matches just to get healthy to wrestle at the conference tournament. Placing third in the tournament got him there, as UVU sent the most number of wrestlers to nationals.
“Overall I was very pleased with how our guys wrestled, and I was really proud of Avery and Abner,” expressed Williams after the conference tournament. “It’s pretty special for both seniors to qualify in their last year after working so hard.”
Despite not making the national tournament, the Wolverines saw improvement from wrestlers like Chasen Tolbert (133), who placed third at conference, Trevor Willson (149) placed fourth, Ethan Smith (184) placed fourth and Derek Thomas (197) placed third. The conference tournament finishes are also reflective of how the team progressed throughout the season.
For example, Tolbert only lost one match in the regular season conference schedule. Willson also had a rough go around in his first year at UVU and gained some momentum towards the end of the year and can build on that for the future.
With the overall goal of the program in getting a lot of wrestlers to nationals, the team looks like its on par with meeting that goal.
“We want to continue to get more kids going, and we want more kids going who are in the top half,” Williams said. “It’s always nice to feel like you are progressing. We want more and more kids each year there and we want them on the podium. We still have goals that haven’t been met and we will with a growing program.”
With improvement on the horizon for the Wolverines, there is only room to get better. Returning wrestlers will add on the accomplishments of the 2013-14 season and with some new recruits, the team will be ready to make school history again.