Five wrestlers headed to NCAA Championships
Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics
UVU’s wrestling team broke the top 25 and are sending five members of the squad to the NCAA Championships — both are firsts in program history.
Taylor LaMont, Demetrius Romero, Kimball Bastian, Dustin Dennison and Tanner Orndorff have all earned the right to participate in national competition March 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We feel like these guys are setting a new standard for UVU wrestling; on and off the mat, their integrity is incredible. They’re just great young men,” said Coach Greg Williams.
LaMont, a 125 pounder from Mapleton, Utah, has been impressive in his redshirt-freshman performance this year. Going 22-2 in the regular season, he was seeded at No. 2 in his weight class for the Big 12 tournament, the highest seeding in the team. LaMont went 3-1 in the tournament and finished in third place overall, making his high seed look like a walk in the park.
“I think it’s huge for the program; I think it’s huge for UVU. We’re not the small school anymore, we’re beating top teams,” said LaMont. “There’s not a lot of teams that qualify five guys for nationals. If everyone can win a couple matches, put together a good performance and try to get on the podium, we’re going to have a good finish at the NCAA tournament.”
Idaho native and 165 pound sophomore Romero has proved to be a force to be reckoned with on the mat. Romero has had an impressive regular season resume of 23-4, and he dropped three straight matches in the conference tournament. Tremendously, he fought his way to national qualifications by winning the sixth-place match against the No. 10 seeded Isaiah Patton from West Virginia.
“The match before, I felt like I was going 100 miles an hour in my head while I was wrestling. I just calmed myself down and went into it, focused on myself and didn’t really talk to anyone; and it helped me regain my composure going into that match,” Romero said.
Bastian, 174 pound and Mapleton native, plays a key role on the team as a redshirt sophomore. He finished the conference tournament 4-2 as the No. 5 seed after posting a 15-7 regular season record.
In a situation much like Romero’s, Bastian came back from a tough loss and took a must-win match for fifth place against the No. 8 seeded Parker VonEgidy from West Virginia.
Dennison had a lot to live up to going into this season after qualifying for the NCAA Championships last season and going 24-10; much was expected of the 285 pounder going into his senior season.
He improved on his previous regular season performance going 27-8, and took third place after going 3-1 in the conference tournament.
“It’s my last big go, I’m obviously going to give it everything I’ve got every match. If I wrestle to the level I know that I’m capable of, good things are going to happen,” said Dennison. “No matter what, as long as I wrestle my hardest I’ll be happy with what I do. As long as I do my best, I’m going to be happy.”
Orndorff, a 197 pound sophomore from Spokane, Wash., also qualified for the NCAA Championships a year ago. This season he finished 19-11 and was ranked No. 31 in his weight class going into the conference championship.
After a 2-2 performance at the Big 12 tournament, Orndorff was selected as an alternate for the championships. Merely a day later, he was informed that he would be participating in nationals after another wrestler dropped out due to injury.
“I know if we all perform like we’re capable of doing, we could be looking at a top 10 finish this weekend, which is something that we have never been in the position to do. I know we’re all capable of getting up on the podium and scoring points. It’s exciting,” said Orndorff.
With five Wolverines entering the NCAA Championships, there is no doubt that there is a lot lying on their shoulders. Getting all five of them to the tournament was historic within itself; now, it’s a question of how much history this team can make.