OREM, Utah — The Utah Valley University wrestling team will travel to Laramie, Wyo., for Saturday's NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championships. The qualifying tournament will be held at the University of Wyoming's Arena-Auditorium.
The one-day tournament will begin at noon and the finals are slated to start at 6 p.m. In all, 50 wrestlers will be competing for 16 automatic bids that have been awarded to the WWC from the NCAA.
Live video as well as live results can be followed by visiting the tournament central page on Wyoming's website. Ticket information for the tournament can also be found on that site. Tickets for the day-long event are $15 for adults and $10 for youth.
UVU will head to the NCAA qualifying tournament for the fourth-consecutive season after becoming eligible to participate in all NCAA Div. I postseason tournaments prior to the 2009-10 season. The Wolverines have had wrestlers qualify for Nationals in each of the past three seasons. Last year 149-pounder Josh Wilson was Utah Valley's lone NCAA Qualifier as he placed second in his weight class at the 2012 conference championships in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
This year the senior Wilson (20-8), who recently came in at 21st on the final NCAA Coaches' Panel, will look to earn his second berth to Nationals. Currently ranked 20th on the same poll, 125-pound redshirt freshman Jade Rauser (19-6), as well as sophomore heavyweight Adam Fager (18-10), who is ranked 33rd, will both look to qualify for the first time.
Seven other Wolverine wrestlers will also be looking to punch their tickets to the NCAA Championships for the first time as sophomore 133-pounder Chasen Tolbert (11-8), junior 141-pounder Avery Garner (19-10), either redshirt freshman Chase Cuthbertson (10-8) or sophomore Ethan Smith (9-8) will wrestle at 157 pounds, junior 165-pounder Abner Cook (15-9), junior 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus (19-9), 184-pound redshirt freshman Derek Thomas (8-18) and sophomore 197-pounder David Prieto (15-13) will also be in action.
The Wolverines finished the regular season with a 6-4 dual record and a third-place finish in the Western Wrestling Conference standings with a 3-2 mark. North Dakota State won its first WWC title with a unblemished 5-0 record, while No. 23 Wyoming placed second at 4-1, Air Force finished fourth (2-3), South Dakota State fifth (1-4) and Northern Colorado sixth (0-5). Just five of the six WWC schools will be in action on Saturday, however, as Northern Colorado is ineligible for postseason competition this year.
The breakdown of the 16 automatic bids per weight class for the West Regional/WWC Championships are as follows: 125 pounds (4), 133 (1), 141 (1), 149 (3), 157 (2), 165 (1), 174 (1), 184 (1), 197 (1) and heavyweight (1).
For those who don't qualify at the regional, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 13. The at-large selections will be made based on the following criteria: head-to-head competition; qualifying event placement; quality wins; results against common opponents; winning percentage; RPI; coaches ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class. Last year the WWC received one additional at-large selection.
This year's three-day NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will take place March 21-23 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
The WWC released its pre-seed rankings for this weekend's qualifying tournament on Wednesday. The pre-seeds were voted on by the conference coaches and ranked the top five wrestlers in each weight class. Final seeds for bracketing will be determined Friday evening at the Coaches' Seeding Meeting.
125 pounds (Top four placers receive NCAA automatic bid)
1. Jade Rauser, Utah Valley
2. Tyler Cox, Wyoming
3. Josh Martinez, Air Force
4. Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State
5. Aaron Pickrel, South Dakota State
133 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Dylan Hyder, Air Force
2. Josh Rodriguez, North Dakota State
3. Brance Simms, South Dakota State
4. Chasen Tolbert, Utah Valley
5. Kasey Garnhart, Wyoming
141 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Avery Garner, Utah Valley
2. Mark Erickson, North Dakota State
3. McCade Ford, Wyoming
4. Carter McElhany, Air Force
5. Ben Gillette, South Dakota State
149 pounds (Top three placers receive NCAA automatic bid)
1. Cole VonOhlen, Air Force
2. Josh Wilson, Utah Valley
3. Dustin Walraven, South Dakota State
4. Joe Garner, North Dakota State
5. Brandon Richardson, Wyoming
157 pounds (Top two placers receive NCAA automatic bid)
1. Josh Kreimier, Air Force
2. Andy McCulley, Wyoming
3. Chase Cuthbertson, Utah Valley
4. Cody Pack, South Dakota State
5. Tanner Carlisle, North Dakota State
165 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Steven Monk, North Dakota State
2. Abner Cook, Utah Valley
3. Jesse Stafford, Air Force
4. Joseph Brewster, South Dakota State
5. Dakota Friesth, Wyoming
174 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. L.J. Helbig, Wyoming
2. Kurtis Julson, North Dakota State
3. Monte Schmalhaus, Utah Valley
4. Clay Gable, Air Force
5. Troy Morisette, South Dakota State
184 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Mac Stoll, North Dakota State
2. Devin Hightower, Air Force
3. Shane Woods, Wyoming
4. Shea Nolan, South Dakota State
5. Derek Thomas, Utah Valley
197 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming
2. Kallen Kleinschmidt, North Dakota State
3. David Prieto, Utah Valley
4. Josh Mohr, Air Force
5. Joe Skow, South Dakota State
285 pounds (Winner receives NCAA automatic bid)
1. Adam Fager, Utah Valley
2. Evan Knutson, North Dakota State
3. Bentley Alsup, Air Force
4. J.J. Everard, South Dakota State
5. Leland Pfeifer, Wyoming
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.