Big 12 conference play starts for UVU wrestling

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The Utah Valley University wrestling team has had an up and down season, but it’s time to tighten up and get tough as conference play begins. North Dakota State and South Dakota State come to UVU on Feb. 5 to the start of competition in the Big 12 Conference.

This has been a long time coming, but Coach Greg Williams isn’t blowing this match out of proportion. “We’re focused on them now, because they’re next.” Williams said.

The Wolverines will have plenty of time to prepare for their first conference dual meets. There was a two-week gap between their last match against Arizona State and the matches against the Dakotas.

South Dakota State was of the rivals in the Western Wrestling Conference that made the transition to the Big 12 in July. In the 133-pound weight class, it could be a rematch of the WWC Championship in 2015 between Jade Rauser of UVU and Brance Simms of South Dakota State. Rauser pinned Simms in that Championship match to earn his third straight trip to Nationals.

“I wrestled him in the WWC Championship last year. He’s tough, but I know I can beat him” Rauser said.

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“We’ll watch tape,” Williams said. “We’re more concerned about what we can do, but it never hurts to know what they can do.”

This will help younger wrestlers like Raider Lofthouse, who is in his first full year of competing for the Wolverines. While wrestlers like Rauser know what they’re up against, Lofthouse will need to watch tape and keep training to better himself.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time. Nothing really changes.” Lofthouse said.

North Dakota State started the season as a ranked program at No. 25 in the national polls. They have struggled early on as they are just 2-4 on the season in dual meets. However, the defending champions of the WWC are looking to rebound.

South Dakota State, on the other hand, hasn’t lost a match since early December. They also have wrestlers ranked in the top 20 in the 157 and 197 pound weight classes.

One of the highlight matches will be in the 125-pound weight class as UVU’s Chasen Tolbert, who is ranked 18th in the most recent InterMat polls, takes on 16th-ranked Josh Rodriguez of North Dakota State.

The UVU wrestling team is ready the challenge that awaits them as members of the Big 12. With upsets over 18th-ranked Oregon State and Boise State, UVU knows they can compete with anyone.

“Our motto is to compete, and when we do that good things happen,.” Williams said. “I think it’s huge for our program. For the great wrestling fans of Utah and the student body, it is a great opportunity to see top-notch wrestling.