2015-16 versions of men and women’s basketball, wrestling gave UVU fans hope for the future

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As the winter sports season at UVU came to and end, 2015-16 turned out to be an exciting time for fans of the Wolverines. With an All-American finish, amazing upsets, and heartbreaking losses, the UVU men and women’s basketball teams, as well as the UVU wrestling team, gave fans a bit of everything.

Mark Pope went 12-18 in his first season as men’s basketball head coach, earning the No. 4 seed in the WAC Tournament. The team suffered injuries from Zach Nelson and Hayes Garrity before the season started, taking depth away from the roster. This didn’t stop the team from showing up every game and going 6-8 in the Western Athletic Conference.

The season ended for UVU with a heartbreaking loss to UMKC in the WAC Tournament when a controversial call gave UMKC the win. Next season looks bright with the return of Nelson, along with a few transfer students eligible to play.

Photo by Brady LeSueur.

Photo by Brady LeSueur.

UVU women’s basketball head coach, Cathy Nixon, can only be pleased with how the women’s basketball season concluded. They started the season hot before hitting a bit of a cold spell in the middle.

However, the Wolverines ended the season hot again, finishing with a winning record of 16-15. It was the team’s first winning season in seven years. Senior Sam Loggins averaged 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and was named to the All-WAC First Team for her play at the center position.

As part of that winning season, UVU had exciting down-to-the-wire wins over Boise State and San Francisco, including an upset win over UTRGV. The women’s team also won its first-ever WAC Tournament game. They dominated UMKC for 35 minutes then staved off a late-game comeback to win 61-53. New Mexico State bounced UVU in the semifinals, and ultimately won the tournament, but it was still great for the team to finally win a conference tournament game.

The wrestling team at UVU finished the season with a 4-10 record in dual meets, an upgrade over last season. The Wolverines had an upset win over then 18th-ranked Oregon State as well as a dominating win over rival Boise State. They also defeated Michigan State of the Big Ten Conference to open the season.

Despite the record, there were quite a few breakout wrestlers on the team. Derek Thomas, ranked in the top-25 for most of the season, and Ross Taylor had successful seasons, but unfortunately they didn’t end in bids to the NCAA Championships.

Photo by Kyle McDonald.

Photo by Kyle McDonald.

Seniors Jade Rauser and Chasen Tolbert dominated all season long; Tolbert was ranked the entire season. Both performed well at the Big 12 Championship and earned bids to go to Nationals. Injuries cut Tolbert’s trip short but Rauser stayed healthy and finished in eighth place, earning All-American status. He is only the second UVU wrestler to take home that honor since Ben Kjar in 2011.

UVU finished eighth out of 10 teams in its first appearance at the Big 12 Championships in Kansas City. It may not have been the finish the Wolverines anticipated, but it was a solid start to something with the potential to be great. With the recruiting at the school getting better, the program will only improve.

While UVU may not have brought home any trophies or broken any necks with outstanding feats, each program only better as the seasons wore on. With great young talent coming up, the future of UVU athletics looks brighter than ever.