Wrestling: UVU enters 2017-18 season with high hopes

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Photo by Mykah Heaton

After a 4-10 finish in 2015-16, its first season as a member of the Big 12, the UVU wrestling team posted a 5-6 record last year, including a 2-3 record in conference play. In their third year in the conference, the Wolverines hope to continue this upward trend and improve upon last season’s high-water mark.

Several standouts from last season’s squad will be looking to make a splash on the national scene this year, including Dustin Dennison (Hwt), Tanner Orndorff (197) and Kimball Bastian (174), who have already begun to garner consideration from voters. The trio will enter the season in TrackWrestling’s preseason top 25 for their respective weight classes, with Dennison being ranked 16th, Orndorff coming in at 21st and Bastian making the list at 25th. Both Dennison and Orndorff return with experience from the 2017 NCAA Championships under their belts, while Bastian looks primed to earn an invitation himself this season.

Aside from those three, five other starters from a year ago will suit up for the coming season. In addition to a handful of battle-tested veterans returning from last year, the Wolverines have a wealth of experience on their bench. UVU will be led by head coach Greg Williams who is back for his 12th season at the helm.

The Wolverines will kick off the 2017-18 schedule on Friday, Nov. 3 against fellow Big 12 member West Virginia in Clarion, Penn., in the opening meet of the Clarion Duals. After the match, the team will head to Raleigh, N.C. to take part in the Wolfpack Duals on Nov. 18 before making its annual trip to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational.

A date for UVU fans to circle on the calendar is Friday, Dec. 15, when UVU hosts conference foe North Dakota State at the Lockhart Arena during its home opener. The Wolverines will then travel to Reno, Nev., to participate in the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions before returning home to resume conference play against regional power South Dakota State.

During the conference portion of the season, the Wolverines will face off against seven Big 12 opponents, including seven-time national champion Oklahoma. The Sooners, who will make the trip to the Lockhart Arena on Feb. 2, are one of the highest-profile opponents to visit Orem in recent memory. First-year conference member Fresno State, Wyoming, Air Force and Northern Colorado round out the conference schedule.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the Wolverines will head to the 2018 Big 12 Championships in Tulsa, Okla., on March 3-4. Last year’s tournament saw heavyweight Dustin Dennison place second in his weight class, while Taylor LaMont and Kimball Bastian each finished sixth.

With the combination of an experienced coaching staff, eight returning starters and a talented lineup, the Wolverines are well positioned to deliver their best season since joining the Big 12.