Get to Nationals: Goal Accomplished

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Smith, Rauser, and Tolbert Head Wrestling Team

Kyle McDonald | Sports Writer | @kylesportsbias

Photo’s courtesy of UVU Athletics and Gabi Campbell, Photo Editor, @gabicampbellphotos

Utah Valley University wrestlers Chasen Tolbert, Jade Rauser, and Ethan Smith had one goal at the beginning of the season: get to nationals.  On Saturday March 7 in Fargo, ND they accomplished that goal and each in their own individual way.

Rauser was chasing his third consecutive trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships and was coming off a fractured sternum that he sustained four weeks prior to the Western Regionals.  He had his first full practice just three days before the competition began, along with the added pressure of being pre-seeded first in the 133 pound weight class.

The pressure didn’t matter to Rauser.  He made quick work of Anthony McHugh of Air Force in his first match. Then followed that up by winning the title with a pin in the second period of Brance Simms from South Dakota State to earn the automatic bid.  “I was really excited cause just going to nationals is one of the best feelings in the world,” Rauser said.  He has a tough matchup in the first round as he takes on 10th ranked Mason Beckman of Lehigh.  “I’m expecting an all-American and nothing less. I just have to focus and train and really get after it… I feel a lot better this year than I did last year… I feel like I’ll be in really good shape.

Smith, a senior from Heber City, Utah and Wasatch High School, defeated Scott Reilly in his first match by decision 7-4 and faced Wyoming senior and #1 seed Andy McCulley to earn a trip to nationals.

Smith and McCulley were tied at the end of regulation and after the first sudden death overtime. In the second, as both wrestlers were vying for position they went out of bounds and Smith felt a pop in his ribcage.  It was the same rib that he had separated four weeks prior to the tournament in a match against North Dakota State.  “I felt a big pop in my rib… when that happened I doubted myself… scoring in the next 30 seconds,” Smith said. “I got the mindset, ‘you gotta get a takedown’.” That is exactly what he did.  With 30 seconds left in the second overtime period, Smith was able to score the take down and earn a trip to nationals.

Tolbert, a junior who comes from Delta High School in Delta, Utah, earned an automatic berth to nationals by taking third in the 125 pound weight class.  Tolbert was scheduled to wrestle in the 133 pound weight class this year for the Wolverines but the team needed him to drop down to 125 and he never looked back.  “The weight cut at first was pretty tough but once I got the weight under control I started feeling good,” Tolbert said.

He compiled an impressive 18-6 record on the year including wins over three of the seven nationally ranked opponents he faced.  “It just shows that I can compete with those guys…it was good enough to get on the podium.”

Head Coach Greg Williams is excited for his guys and very happy at what they were able to accomplish.  “Our guys are good wrestlers… its one match at a time. You treat it the same way you treat practice and you go out there and you put your best effort out,” Williams said. “My feeling is, is that all three of these guys can go there and perform well and have a chance to get on the podium.”