Demetrius Romero’s improbable eight-year wrestling journey

Reading Time: 4 minutes Demetrius Romero has been a collegiate athlete since 2015, an unusual eight-year span. With plenty left in the tank, Romero is ready to make his way back to the NCAA Wrestling Championships after two season-ending knee injuries.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Demetrius Romero, a graduate student from Meridian, ID has arguably had one of the most successful careers in Wolverine history. After two season-ending knee injuries, now amidst his eighth year of eligibility, Romero has slowly worked his way back to being one of the top wrestlers in the country.

“In the back of your head, getting hurt is always there,” said Romero. “At the beginning of the season, I was a little more timid and as I went on, a lot of that timidness has disappeared and my wrestling has come together because I’ve gotten past that mental block.”

Romero began his career at Boise State University, where he was redshirted during the 2015-16 season before he made his redshirt freshman debut during 2016-17. In his first year of competition, he came in at the 165-pound weight class, recording a 21-6 overall record and a 5-6 dual record, falling just one win short of an NCAA Tournament appearance.

After the wrestling program at BSU was announced to be discontinued, Romero said that despite being recruited heavily, Utah Valley University was his preferred destination in the transfer portal because his younger brother was an athlete for the Wolverines.

“I was already set on going to UVU because my younger brothers Adrian and Andre Jones ran track here already, so it’s an easy transition going into my third year of college not necessarily having to go out and build a community again…so I chose UVU,” said Romero.

In his first year with the Wolverines, competing in the 165-pound class during his sophomore season in 2017-18, Romero finished with NWCA All-Academic team honors and was ranked top 25 nationally. During that season, he held a 26-9 record and went a perfect 11-0 in duals, defeating six ranked opponents on his run to placing sixth at the Big 12 Championships before making his first appearance at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

In 2018-19, his junior year, Romero garnered significant national attention while competing with the Wolverines, recording a 28-5 record and becoming the Wolverine’s first-ever Big-12 champion. He appeared at the NCAA Wrestling Championships as the No. 9 seed, where he went 3-2, one win shy of an All-American nod. He finished his junior year ranked in the top 10 in the 165-pound weight class.

Coming back for what would have been his senior year in 2019-20, Romero suffered a season-ending knee injury and was awarded a medical redshirt.

“Right before COVID, I tore my ACL in practice. I wrestled on it for a little bit, I wrestled in the first tournament and did well but I just couldn’t do as much as I was doing so then I decided to get surgery,” said Romero. “At first, I didn’t know it was torn, it would just hurt when I would go side to side, I had never really had an injury in my career so that was the first time I ever had a big injury.”

Coming off of an ACL tear, Romero bounced back in a big way, with one of the most successful seasons in Wolverine history during his 2020-21 senior campaign. He moved up from the 165 to the 174-pound weight class, where he dominated with a 19-2 record and went a perfect 6-0 in duals before claiming his second Big-12 title. He was also the highest-ranked Wolverine in program history, ranked No. 2 nationally. 

Romero entered the NCAA Wrestling Championships as the highest-seeded Wolverine ever with the No. 2 seed and was undefeated until that point at 19-0. He then made it all the way to the NCAA semi-final round before being defeated by the eventual national champion Carter Starocci from Penn State. He was named All-American for UVU along with teammate Taylor Lamont, as the two were just the third and fourth Wolverines in history to earn All-American honors.

Since Covid prompted an extra year of eligibility for athletes, Romero was granted a fifth year of competition in 2021-22. However, Romero suffered his second season-ending injury, and this time it was much worse.

“I tore my other ACL in my right knee, I did a lot of damage to my meniscus, my MCL, my LCL, I just blew that knee out. That time I knew it was torn,” said Romero.

Romero was granted a medical redshirt for the 2021-22 season and was allowed to compete in 2022-23.

This season, with all of his experience, Romero has taken a different type of leadership role with the team.

“It’s about culture, being an example, I’m not just out here talking, preaching, and giving advice,” said Romero. “It’s following the things you are saying to people and going out and doing it the way that you preach it. In big matches, how to stay solid, especially in those moments where you feel overwhelmed.”

Romero said that his extended college career has enabled him to give advice to younger teammates, as he was in their position before.

“It is easier to be vocal with your teammates when you’re doing things, having success, and competing. I have had a pretty long college career so I understand what it’s like to be young and be there.”

At the time of writing, Romero is 11-1 and ranked #8 in the 2023 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships coaches rankings for the 174-pound weight class.

From his redshirt freshman season to now, Romero said where he had improved most is his consistency and confidence and his abilities.

“I think at a young age when you feel fatigued or things get hard, it’s pretty easy to choose the easy route or the thing that’s going to be comfortable. Living in that space of discomfort is a big part, those are moments that you have to embrace and enjoy being there,” said Romero. “You have to find ways to make it fun for yourself and make that a consistent spot your putting yourself in in your life. I think building up consistency in those uncomfortable moments was a huge part of my development.”

Romero is currently working on his MBA after obtaining his Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at UVU.