Demetrius Romero has high hopes for UVU wrestling

“It gave me more motivation. When you sit out, it’s difficult not to take part physically all year,” Romero said. “It was difficult for me to get back into shape. It kind of showed me that this isn’t a guarantee. If I get hurt again like this again I’m probably going to have to call it. I need to get the most out of this because it could end any minute.”

Senior Demetrius Romero is currently ranked No. 5 in the 174-lb. weight class with an 8-0 individual record this season. Photo courtesy of Tech-Fall.com.

Not many collegiate programs can credibly claim a top 20 finish in the national polls as a legitimate season-end goal but Utah Valley wrestling is one of those programs — and redshirt senior Demetrius Romero knows it.

“I think we’re definitely going to be a top 20 team,” he said. “It’s still kind of early in the season, so we’re trying to fix our hiccups from the last contest and get everything smoothed out before conference play. I think we’ll be able to send at least five kids from our lineup to nationals.”

Romero is familiar with success at both conference and NCAA tournaments. The 5’ 11”, 174-pounder earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in both his sophomore and junior seasons. In his sophomore year, he would finish with a 26-9 record and placed sixth in the Big 12 tournament. As a junior, Romero became the first Big 12 champion in UVU history and finished the season with a 28-5 individual record. Ten of those wins came against nationally ranked opponents.

Primed for a dominant senior year, Romero suffered an injury on Nov. 9, 2019 that would derail his season after only two matches. Fortunately, he was able to qualify for a medical redshirt which allowed him to return for an abnormal spring 2021 season.

“It gave me more motivation. When you sit out, it’s difficult not to take part physically all year,” he said. “It was difficult for me to get back into shape. It kind of showed me that this isn’t a guarantee. If I get hurt again like this again I’m probably going to have to call it. I need to get the most out of this because it could end any minute.”

Romero began wrestling in high school when one of his teammates on the football team urged him to try out. He showed promise early on and won the state championship during his senior season at Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho. Romero credits his high school coach, Kevin Wood, for helping him mature both on and off the mat. Wood encouraged Romero to practice against teammates of varying skill levels so that he could learn proper technique and form, rather than simply relying on superior athleticism and size to win.

“[Wood] probably taught me the most of anyone outside of my family,” Romero said. “It wasn’t even always about wrestling. For him, it was about getting the most out of what you’ve been given and then giving back to others.”

Romero’s father — a football and basketball player in high school — supported his son by ensuring that he stayed focused and completely invested in whatever he chose to do.

“My father was always a big influence on me,” Romero said. “He would always say, ‘If you want to play sports, play sports and I’ll take care of everything else. Just make sure you put all of your effort into that and into your schooling.’ If he felt like we weren’t getting the most out of ourselves he would tell us to keep training and keep working if we wanted to be successful.”

Athleticism definitely runs in the family, Romero has two brothers — Adrian and Andre Jones — who compete on the track & field team at UVU.

“They’re obviously a big source of my motivation,” he said. “Growing up, my dad would always tell me to be a good big brother to these kids and show them the way. I’ve got to set that expectation of what I want them to be athletically. I want them to be better than me.”

This drive to help others succeed extends beyond Romero’s athletic career, as he is currently working on a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at UVU. After graduation, he hopes to open a clinic with his brother Adrian. Romero was drawn to marriage and family therapy because it has given him a chance to learn to live his own life as a better person while helping others.

For years, Romero has been collecting sneakers and said he probably has hundreds of pairs of shoes — including his prized Jordan Retro 4 ‘Fire Red’ and Dior B23 brand Chuck Taylor high-tops.

“I’m definitely an [Air] Jordan guy. I probably buy too many pairs, I’ve maxed out a few credit cards,” he added jokingly.

Part of Demetrius Romero’s sneaker collection, featuring brands like Air Jordan and Nike. Photo by Demetrius Romero.

Romero also said he started to get into hunting last year after a friend introduced him to it. He has spent time doing his own research into setting bait and tracking animals.

“I’ve never really been into hunting. My friend asked me to go coyote hunting and at first I wasn’t sure, I said ‘I don’t really do that.’ I just started trying it out and it’s actually pretty interesting,” he said. “It’s way harder than you’d think. You have to be really patient and I’m not patient at all. You have to sit out there for hours at a time just waiting. I get nervous that I’ll miss when something finally comes around.”

When it comes to wrestling, though, Romero’s patience has paid off as the Wolverines were able to finally start their season on Jan. 3 after having their normal start date postponed from the fall due to COVID-19. The pandemic has created a fresh set of problems for the team and will make this a season unlike any other.

“It’s been a little harder to adjust to the training because we don’t have everyone training at once and we have to maintain social distancing,” Romero said. “It’s harder to get hyped up before a workout because you don’t get to be around the whole team. A big part of showing up to practice was always making jokes with your teammates and having fun with each other.”

Duals have had a different feel this season as well, with teammates spread out and few spectators allowed in the crowd. The one thing that remains normal this season is Romero’s dominance on the mat. Ranked No. 5 nationally in the 174-pound weight class, Romero is 8-0 on the season so far, including a 5-3 victory over No. 14 Hayden Hastings last weekend. 

Still, he is quick to highlight the performance of his teammates and didn’t mention his NCAA aspirations without first calling out his teammates who he expects to join him at nationals this year. Romero takes inspiration from his family and his coaches by showing gratitude for everything he has and hopes to live every aspect of his life according to his oft-repeated tenet, “I just want to be able to help people and give back.”

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