Out with the old and in with the new

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Photo courtesy UVU Athletics

For the first time in a long time, the UVU wrestling team will start the season without a national qualifier returning. Four-time national qualifier Jade Rauser and two-time national qualifier Chasen Tolbert have graduated.

Don’t let this fool you though. Head coach Greg Williams has reloaded for the 2016-17 season and, although the prized possession 125-pounder Taylor LaMont is redshirting, there is still a great deal to be excited about.

“We not only lost our three nationally ranked wrestlers, but also four of the five that placed at last year’s Big 12 Championship. We’ll now look to a new group of guys to lead the way for us this year, including a number of new starters and a very gifted redshirt class,” said Williams in a statement to wolverinegreen.com. “There’s a lot of talent in our room and we’re very excited for what lies ahead.”

Fans don’t have to look any further than the Cowboy Open in Laramie, Wyoming two weeks ago. LaMont won the championship at 125 pounds while wrestling unattached. Unfortunately, he had to wrestle his own teammate Mitch Brown to win it.

That is where the excitement stems from. Brown is a redshirt sophomore while LaMont is just a freshman. So, for the next three to four years, the Wolverines will have depth in the 125-pound weight class.

Another freshman, Kimball Bastian at 174 pounds, took second place at the Cowboy Open. Two other freshmen placed at the first tournament of the season for the Wolverines. Koy Wilkinson finished fourth at 165 pounds and Landon Knutzen, who wrestled unattached, took second at 149 pounds. Freshman heavyweight Benjamin Andrew wrestled unattached and went 5-2, but didn’t place.

It was just the first tournament of the season for UVU, but with the success shown by these newcomers, it could be said that UVU wrestling has the potential to make noise and compete for a Big 12 Conference championship. Not only that, but there is potential to send more wrestlers to Nationals and add to just two All-Americans in program history.

Williams will also have veterans Dustin Dennison and Jordan Karst (285), Trevor Willson (141), Raider Lofthouse (157), Will Sumner (184) and Jarod Maynes (133), to rely upon. Karst and Sumner both finished third at the Cowboy Open while Maynes finished in fourth-place.  Dennison is the only Wolverine that placed at the 2016 Big 12 Championships as he placed fourth.

Something to think about for the long run is that a majority of the incoming freshmen to the UVU wrestling program will redshirt this year. LaMont, who is a four-time Fargo national champion along with 2016 FloNational runner-up Durbin Lloren lead a list of highly-touted freshmen. Andrew was the folkstyle national champion; Matt Findlay was a four-time state champion at Alta High in Draper; Gary Jantzer was a three-time state champion in Oregon and Kyle Snelling was a three-time state champion in New Mexico.

With a new youth movement and a bevy of veterans, there is great excitement surrounding the UVU wrestling program and what the future holds.