UVU wrestling officially opened the season Nov. 2 in the annual Cowboy Open at the University of Wyoming where the Wolverines travelled seven grapplers, hoping to gain experience for the younger guys on the team.
The tournament provided a chance for new members of the team to gain experience and adjust to the speed and tempo of D-I wrestling. Six of the seven grapplers who participated in the tournament were lower classmen.
“The tournament was to get our younger guys experience,” head coach Greg Williams said. “There were several who are now aware of the level of wrestling they need to be at to be successful. We had a couple of guys that were rewarded for their hard work this offseason by getting some wins against kids they would have lost to last season. Overall it was a good learning experience.”
That hard work was the reward of 133-pounder Chasen Tolbert, who started a few matches for the Wolverines last season. Tolbert won his first two matches and started out by pinning Wyoming’s Sean O`Leary quickly (2:19). Tolbert then won a 5-0 decision against Nebraska-Kearney’s Ryan Bauer by in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately for Tolbert, his next two matches didn’t go his way as he lost to two conference opponents in Air Force’s Greg Rinker 9-5 in the semis and forfeited to Carter McElhany in the consolation semifinal.
The tournament was also important for 197-pounder Derek Thomas, who moved up from 184 pounds last season. Moving up a weight class can be very difficult for some wrestlers, since they have to adjust to the tempo if a higher weight division. For Thomas, he is making the transition well and had a good showing in the tournament.
In wrestling, a lot of what you do is in the mental aspect of the game. Getting pinned is never fun and sometimes it can weigh on your mind if it happens in the first match of a tournament. Thomas was pinned in his first match against Wyoming’s Shane Woods. Thomas didn’t let that affect his tournament and went on to win his next two matches against another Wyoming wrestler, Brandon Tribble, 9-5, and CSU Pueblo’s Chris Frisbie, 5-0, to advance to the consolation bracket semifinals. There Thomas lost to Arizona State’s Chace Eskam and finished 2-2.
The Wolverines were also represented well at 125 pounds with redshirt freshman Bracken Nipko. Nipko won his first match in dominant fashion against Great Falls’ Jared Berlinger in a major decision 12-1. The impressive win was followed up with another victory against CSU Pueblo wrestler Eric Hughes to advance to the championship semifinals. Sadly, the great run was ended when Nipko lost his next two bouts, which included a loss to ASU grappler Ares Carpio, 5-0 and ended his day in the consolation semifinal in a margin of one point, 5-4, against Boise State’s Rami Haddadin and finished 2-2.
The season started off with some great results, with great showings from the future of the wrestling squad. The younger wrestlers will have another chance to develop in the Colorado Mesa Open.
“This next week will be only our newest wrestlers and walk-ons,” Williams said. “It will also be for experience.”
The starters won’t be seen for the Wolverines until the team travels to Central Michigan to take on the Chippewas Nov. 15. UVU stays in Michigan for duals against Michigan State, Ohio and Gardner-Webb Nov. 16.