Wrestling in the Big 12 Conference equals recognition and legitimacy for UVU.
Head coach Greg Williams knows what it means to wrestle against the best
When the Utah Valley University wrestling team announced in July that they would be joining the Big 12 Conference beginning in 2015, head coach Greg Williams said that it would take the program to the next level.
“Utah Valley now has a piece of their athletic department that’s part of the Big 12,” Williams said. “That gives us some recognition and some legitimacy that we wouldn’t have without being a part of the Big 12.”
That recognition isn’t going unnoticed. UVU defeated Michigan State, of the Big Ten Conference, in the season opening dual meet and have also defeated 18th-ranked Oregon State and rival Boise State to start the season. It has led to the program receiving votes in the top-25 national polls.
However, just because they are in the Big 12 Conference doesn’t mean they will automatically win or get the top recruits. According to Williams, the UVU wrestling team has to produce on the mat and show that they are capable of getting those wrestlers where they want to go: the podium at Nationals.
“Most serious wrestlers are looking for a program they know can help them produce,” Williams said. “Being in the Big 12 itself doesn’t answer that. We have to be doing enough that they feel like we are an up-and-coming program, which fortunately, is happening. By doing the other things that are important to be a good program, that allows us to now to have the Big 12 help us in recruiting.”
The level of competition that the Wolverines are facing is also a big tool that Williams uses in recruiting. To be able to wrestle against Oklahoma State, who is the most storied NCAA Division I wrestling program, and Oklahoma, who is consistently ranked in the top-10 is a dream for a wrestler and Williams uses that to his advantage.
“The next step is to have good competition,” Williams said. “Competition that everybody else recognizes. So being in a conference with Oklahoma State gives you some legitimacy with the conference you’re in.”
Williams knows that having the Big 12 attached to the recruiting pitch is a major tool. But he also believes that winning in dominating fashion over Boise State and having wrestlers like Chasen Tolbert, who was recently named Big 12 wrestler of the week, and Derek Thomas, who are both 6-0 helps as well. It shows that they are producing results, which in turn leads to greater success on the recruiting trail.
“If we’re able to continue to do those things,” Williams said, “you attach the Big 12 with that, and it’s a much better recruiting power than what we would have had if we were in the WWC (Western Wrestling Conference).”
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