Trial by Fire

A fun little fact of life is that we can prepare ourselves, almost become masterful at something and feel like we could take on anything with this set of skills that we posses. But sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that come our way and can in fact derail us from our goals and aspirations. This was the case for the UVU wrestling team as they went to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational on Nov. 30- Dec 1.

Some of those circumstances were underperformance of some athletes. For the most part, what hit the team the hardest was that the tournament officials had not seeded senior Josh Wilson (149-bs.) and redshirt freshmen phenom, Jade Rauser (125 lbs). Both have been deserving of a seeding, and had to wrestle the top-seeded wrestlers in the first couple of rounds, when they most likely would have faced those wrestlers in the higher placing portions of the bracket.

Despite having these circumstances derail what they had hoped for, the Wolverines still wrestled well to get the program some respect.

“It was such a good feeling to be there and see our guys doing well,” said head coach Greg Williams. “To see our guys compete well against some guys from the Big 10 these guys are not intimidated, they can go out there and compete with anyone.”

The team never backed down and fought hard, despite having some fall short of their goal, while others stood out and got closer to a breakout performance. Jade Rauser(125) placed eighth overall, and would have placed higher had he not gotten sick and being pulled from the tournament.

Josh Wilson (149) and Abner Cook (165) both missed placing by one match and both had top-10 ranked opponents before losing. Wilson lost by a single point to finish the tournament to fourth-ranked Scott Sakaguchi, of Oregon State. And Cook lost to 10th-ranked Taylor Massa of Michigan.

Williams was pleased with the way they wrestled but so much the way things turned out, because he knows the potential is limitless with his team and wants to see them finish things better than the outcome in Vegas, which was 23rd.

“I think we should have finished higher than what we did,” Williams said. “I don’t like seeing our name in the 20’s, I wanted to see in the mid-teens, and in the top-10 with this team in the next few years, expectations are high.”

The outcome of the tournament was definitely not what was expected, and it really changes things for the Midland Championships later this month. The team is only allowed to take five members. The original plan was to take the ones who were close to getting ranked to the tournament and leave the ones that are ranked home. That wasn’t the case and that is the new challenge for Coach Williams in the next few weeks of who to take on this trip.

The Wolverines return on a home stand Jan. 4 against conference foe, No.19 Wyoming to start conference duals.

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