On this week’s episode of the Quickfire Podcast, we gave out the Wolverines of the Year awards, highlighting the top achievements of UVU’s athletes in 2021. Last year was arguably the most successful year across the board in UVU Athletics history, so there were plenty of great options to choose from.
Men’s Coach of the Year- Greg Williams (Wrestling)
Williams coached the Wrestling team to new heights in 2021, sending a program-record four wrestlers to Nationals back in March in Ty Smith, Cameron Hunsaker, Demetrius Romero, and Taylor LaMont. LaMont and Romero went on to claim All-America honors, finishing fifth and sixth respectively in their weight classes.
Women’s Coach of the Year- Sam Atoa (Women’s Volleyball)
In his 23rd year at the helm of the women’s volleyball program, Sam Atoa led the Wolverines to their first two NCAA tournament appearances. His squad finished second in the WAC spring season, and upset top-seeded New Mexico State in the finals of the WAC tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
In the fall season, Atoa’s team overcame several injuries to key players to win another WAC championship as the seven seed. The Wolverines again upset NMSU, this time in the first round, then swept through Stephen F. Austin and Grand Canyon to win their second consecutive WAC tournament title.
“At one point in time it was a dream of ours to be able to get to the NCAA Tournament,” said Atoa following his team’s loss to Utah in the NCAA tournament in December. “This transition of where we’ve taken this program from has a lot to do with the young ladies that we have on our team. That dream is now an expectation.”
Men’s Team of the Year- Men’s Basketball
COVID-19 tremendously altered the 2020-21 men’s basketball season, requiring the team to play most of the season without fans, but the Wolverines were able to put together a stellar season that culminated in a WAC regular-season title, the first since 2014.
The Wolverines rode that momentum into a red-hot start to the 2021-22 season, including an upset victory over the No. 12 BYU Cougars and a tough road win over Washington.
Women’s Team of the Year- Women’s Soccer
Women’s Soccer laid claim to the first-ever NCAA tournament victory in UVU history during the spring NCAA tournament, upsetting No. 25 Memphis. The Wolverines went 13-5-4 en route to WAC regular season and tournament championships. The team was stellar on defense, recording 11 shutouts in the spring season alone.
The fall season presented a much more difficult schedule with more non-conference games and the addition of new schools to the WAC, but the women’s soccer team was able to post its best start in program history and came one win away from repeating as both WAC regular season and tournament champions.
Men’s Co-Individual Performance of the Year- Taylor LaMont and Demetrius Romero
LaMont and Romero both earned All-America finishes at the 2021 NCAA wrestling championships, the first time in program history two Wolverines had finished on the podium in the same year. In addition to their success at the national level, Romero claimed a Big 12 championship and LaMont finished second in their respective weight classes.
“We expect others in our program to look to these two for the processes they go through every day on the mat,” said Williams following the championships last March. “That is what got both of them to this level and what we believe will carry them back here again next year with an even better opportunity to win a title.”
Romero is out for the 2021-22 season with an ACL injury but hopes to get a medical waiver to compete again next season. LaMont currently ranks No. 17 in the 125-pound weight class but hasn’t had much opportunity to wrestle this season due to COVID cancellations.
Read more about Romero in a player profile by The Review’s Bridger Beal here.
Women’s Individual Performance of the Year- Kristen Bell vs Hawaii
The redshirt senior was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball as the women’s volleyball team defeated Hawaii back in September. Bell had a career night with 18 kills and 18 digs in a five-set thriller at the Lockhart Arena. Bell finishes her career ranking fifth all-time in kills in school history.
Men’s Game of the Year- Men’s basketball vs No. 12 BYU
This was perhaps the easiest choice of the bunch, as men’s basketball picked up its first-ever win over a ranked opponent when it took down the Cougars 72-65 in the UCCU Crosstown Clash. Fardaws Aimaq was unstoppable, racking up 24 points, 22 rebounds, 5 steals, and 3 blocks, all while playing 44 out of 45 minutes in the overtime thriller. Justin Harmon was clutch off the bench, adding another 24 points and three blocks of his own.
Women’s Game of the Year- Women’s soccer vs No. 25 Memphis
April 28 was a historic day for the UVU Athletics program when the women’s soccer team knocked off No. 25 Memphis to claim the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. Sadie Brockbank scored the winner in the 60th minute, and the Wolverines’ stellar defense took over from there to secure the 1-0 victory.
Men’s Player of the Year- Fardaws Aimaq
The Big Maple has put UVU on the map with his dominant play down in the post. The center out of Vancouver, British Columbia, was named WAC Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season when he led the nation in rebounding. Aimaq was the first D-1 athlete in over 40 years to average 15 rebounds per game. He’s picked up right where he left off, averaging nearly 20 points per game and 14 rebounds. Aimaq currently leads the nation with 15 double-doubles on the season, and has attracted considerable attention from NBA scouts. Aimaq initially declared for the draft following last season but decided to return for his third collegiate season to perfect his craft.
Women’s Player of the Year- Kazna Tanuvasa
Arguably the G.O.A.T. when it comes to UVU women’s athletics, Tanuvasa etched her name in the women’s volleyball record books following stellar spring and fall seasons, leading her team to two WAC tournament championships and two NCAA tournament berths. Her 382 kills in the fall season ranked 11th-most in a single season, and she fell just short of breaking the all-time career kills record (in fewer sets played than the record holder, and against tougher competition). Tanuvasa was named first-team All-WAC and became the first Wolverine to be named all-conference in all four seasons at the school.
2021 was a banner year for Wolverine Athletics, and 2022 is shaping up to be another great year across the board. Baseball and Softball have revamped their programs with new coaching staffs, Cross Country had a very successful season, including the women’s team that won the WAC championships, and track & field are creating something special down at Hal Wing Field.
To quote Sam Atoa, “This won’t be the last you’ve heard of the Wolverines.”
You can listen to the full episode of the Quickfire Podcast here. New episodes are released every Wednesday.
Senior Staff Writer
Nathan is a senior studying Communications. In addition to covering UVU athletics for The Review, Nathan also covers BYU athletics for ESPN 960. Nathan hails from the Bay Area in California, and keeps tabs on the Giants, 49ers, and Warriors in his spare time.