Any university in its first fully accredited year in NCAA Division I would be thrilled having the success UVU’s wrestling team experienced last year.
Any university except UVU, that is.
Despite upsetting a nationally ranked Top-10 team, surpassing the 10-win mark and sending three members to NCAA Division I Championships, the Wolverines had bigger plans that went unfulfilled.
Neither coach Greg Williams nor his players have forgotten.
“Having three guys go to nationals, we were fairly pleased with [that],” Williams said. “We were disappointed because we felt we had at least four that we could have got there. Then we were disappointed because we felt we could have had at least one All-American.”
So how did Coach Williams rank last season’s success tempered with preseason expectations?
“Was it a ten? No,” Williams said.
That disappointment, Williams continued, is what leads the Wolverines into this year. They feel they did well, but they could have done better. And unlike other schools that feel similar, UVU has a chance to prove it.
The Wolverines bring back the entire core of last year’s team, including five All-Western Wrestling Conference players, three of whom are the same trio that played in last year’s nationals.
Senior grappler Benjamin Kjar, ranked No. 12 in preseason polls, best personifies the team’s ambitions, Williams said. The coach said his offseason talks with the 125-pounder showed Kjar sincerely believes the sky is the limit for both himself and the team.
“What separates Ben just a little bit is the conversation Ben and I had was not, ‘What is going to take to place?’ ” Williams said. “It was, ‘What’s it going to take to be on that top step?’ For him there is no difference.”
With the desire already in place, the Wolverines plan to perfect their game through the season and, hopefully, be in a position to execute their ambitions on the mat come championship time.
“When you ask me next year, ‘How did you feel about last year?’, the 10 is going to come from getting our All-Americans,” Howard said. “That’s what these guys are doing here. That’s our end goal. The records are just the matches to get us ready for the end.”
Assuming improvement is made upon last year, it’s a goal well within reach.