Wrestling: Rauser, Tolbert ready to wrestle with the best at MSG

For the fourth straight time, UVU wrestler Jade Rauser gets a chance to compete for the ultimate prize in collegiate wrestling: a national championship. Rauser and teammate Chasen Tolbert, who is going for the second straight time, will compete against the best the country has to offer in the NCAA wrestling championships at Madison Square Garden in New York City beginning on Thursday.

“I’m excited,” Rauser said. “It’s always been a goal to go four times. Now I just have to reach that next step, which is All-American.”

Rauser earned his way to Nationals by placing third at the Big 12 Championships on March 15-16 in Kansas City. Rauser went 3-1 with his only loss coming to 2nd-ranked and defending national champion Cody Brewer of Oklahoma. In his three wins, Rauser was impressive. He defeated Brance Simms of South Dakota State by decision, 7-0 in his first match. Then fell to Brewer but followed that up with a 10-6 win over 18th-ranked Josh Martinez of Air Force. Martinez had defeated Rauser 4-3 back on Feb. 11 in Colorado Springs. It didn’t take Rauser long to become to the first wrestler in UVU wrestling history to earn a trip to nationals four straight times. He beat 21st-ranked Gary Wayne Harding by fall in the first period (2:16) to win third place and a trip to New York City.

“This year I will have to lay everything out on the line,” Rauser said. “It’s my last time going out. I feel like last year I wrestled good. I had tough draws and stuff but I have to just really get after it this year when I go out there. I feel like my first two years I was hesitant in some of the matches where I could have beat the kids I faced…I feel confident.”

Chasen Tolbert finished sixth at the 2016 Big 12 Championships and now has to wait to see if he will get an at-large berth to nationals. Photo by Mike Smith/MatShots
Despite battling through a knee injury, UVU senior Chasen Tolbert knows that he can find a way to win at the NCAA National Championships in Madison Square Garden beginning on Thursday. Photo by Mike Smith/MatShots

Tolbert had to wait until the Wednesday after the Big 12 Championships had ended to learn if he would be going to nationals. Tolbert has been ranked in the top-20 all season long but had to battle through some injuries late in the season to earn his spot at Madison Square Garden. At the Big 12 Championships he had lost by default in the 5th place match due to a knee injury and then took a forfeit in a true sixth place match. So when he saw his name in the NCAA bracket at 125-pounds on Wednesday he was pretty excited.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” Tolbert said. “I’m glad that it worked out that way.”

Tolbert was injured in his match against Drew Romero of Air Force on Feb. 11 and for a senior who was on a roll up to that point it was both frustrating because he knew he could perform better and but exciting when his name was called to go to New York.

“I was so frustrated with losing close matches when I felt like it wasn’t fair,” Tolbert said. “I don’t like to make excuses or anything and people have done crazier things than having just a bum knee. It’s winnable. You can still get by with just figuring something else out as far as strategy.

Rauser faces off against the No. 2 national seed Cory Clark of Iowa in his first match and Tolbert takes on Brandon Jeske of Old Dominion in a pigtail match. It’s a tough draw for Rauser but a similar situation to the one he was in at the 2015 NCAA National Championships. He defeated 10th-ranked Mason Beckman of Lehigh in his first match and then, although he lost, got some experience by wrestling against 7th-ranked Jimmy Gulibon of Penn State.

“I’ve been there before,” Rauser said. “That’s not intimidating at all. It’s a pretty sweet venue to end my career on so I am excited to be there. I think this will be the best place so far that I have been.

For Rauser, who is going to New York City for the first time in his life, and Tolbert the opportunity to continue to help put UVU wrestling on the map is there. These seniors will be looking to make their mark on the Big Apple.

You can find the full NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship brackets here.

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