Photo courtesy UVU Athletics
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the general theme surrounding the Utah Valley University wrestling team can be summed up in two words: youth and confidence.
After graduating three players that finished last season nationally ranked, including All-American Jade Rouser, the UVU wrestling team will begin the upcoming campaign with new faces. Despite being a relatively inexperienced bunch, expectations within the program are high. The Wolverines are a talented group that feature several wrestlers who could make a splash in the team’s second year in the Big 12.
“We’re going into a season for the first time in a long time not having anybody ranked,” said UVU wrestling head coach Greg Williams. “We expect that will change sometime during the year. The question is which of maybe seven out of 10 guys will be the ones that step up first. We don’t know exactly when certain guys will make jumps, but we know some guys will make some jumps this year, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Coach Williams feels that several wrestlers have displayed enough talent and confidence in practice to potentially have a breakout season and make some noise not only in the conference, but nationally as well. One of those wrestlers could be junior Jarod Maynes.
“Personally I want to place in the Big 12 Tournament and I want to All-American this year. It’s quite a big jump from last year, but I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” said Maynes.
After spending much of last year wrestling at 141 pounds, Maynes will return to his natural weight class of 133 for the upcoming year.
Another wrestler with similarly high expectations is junior heavyweight Dustin Dennison. The only returning player on the roster to secure a medal at the 2016 Big 12 Championships, Dennison has his sights set even higher this year.
“As for me, I hope to go to nationals and get on the podium this year,” said Dennison.
The team’s veteran presence is provided by lone senior Trevor Willson. Although he realizes the importance of being a senior leader, Willson makes it a point not to feel any pressure that might be attached to that role. The senior also has some lofty personal goals for his last season as a Wolverine.
“My personal goal for this season is to be an All-American,” said Willson. “By December I want to get nationally ranked, start making a name for myself and then when conference comes around, get on that podium.”
The Wolverines begin the season Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Cowboy Open in Laramie, Wyoming. However, the team’s first home match won’t come until Thursday, Dec. 15, when Oregon State makes the trip to Orem.