Evaluating the needs of a team and what it already has in house can make the offseason seem longer than it really is. For the UVU wrestling team, there really is no break in the offseason. From workouts to recruiting, the team looks for experience within the lineup add a conference championship to its success from last year.
The Wolverines have a lot of wrestlers coming back this season. Nine from the ten that went to conference last season are coming back. Josh Wilson (149 lbs.), who qualified for nationals last year, is the only one who is not coming back only because he has graduated.
With the experience from the nine returning wrestlers, Head Coach Greg Williams is hoping that the captains on the roster, Avery Garner (141), Abner Cook (165) and Monte Schmalhaus (174), will help take the program in new heights by winning the conference championship.
“We’re expecting some great things,” Williams said. “One goal we had last year was to win conference. We came fairly close to that goal with a pretty young team. I feel that this year we can do that.”
Last season, three Wolverines made it to the national tournament. Jade Rauser (125) and Adam Fager (Heavyweight), are hoping to make the tournament for a consecutive year. This year however, the team hopes to take more guys to nationals. A feat that they almost accomplished last year, but a few missed out on the opportunity by only a few matches.
“I try not to lay the expectations on them,” Williams explained. “They make their own goals. But, there’s not one kid that doesn’t think they can make nationals, and couple of them expect to get on the podium. We have a couple of kids that feel that they can be national champions. We feel really good about the progress we feel good about what we will be able to accomplish. We expect them all to do well, we have two guys who went to nationals last year and two that were a match away and they are hungry.”
The road to nationals is never an easy one. Williams has made the schedule to prove that his team is as good as he knows they are, scheduling tough teams that have national prowess. Teams like Central Michigan, Nebraska and Boise State that have solid programs will help the team meet the goal of getting more wrestlers to nationals.
“If we were in a bigger conference, about three more guys would have gone to national and they deserved to be there,” Williams said. “Their RPI was high enough. The conference needs to continue to gain the respect around the country that the bigger conferences have but we need to win those matches consistently. Those close matches against ranked kids will let other people know that we have a guy in our lineup, he’s going to be someone to watch.”
UVU will be faced with challenges early on in the season, being on the road for the first two months of the season. During those months, the team will have competition against Central Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State. The team will also be travelling to a pair of the toughest tournaments in the nation with the Cliff Keen invitational and Midlands Championships in December.
The season will begin for the Wolverines on Oct. 30, when the team has the annual Intrasquad dual. After, its off to the Cowboy Open in Laramie, Wyo. on Nov. 2.