Wolverine wrestling: coach Williams anticipates a good 2013-14 season from his veteran squad

By James Warnick

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013 6:55 p.m. MDT

The 2013-14 UVU wrestling team poses for a team photo in early October.

Shane Truskolaski, UVU Athletics

Enlarge photo»

OREM — After sending three wrestlers to the NCAA Championships a year ago and placing third in the Western Wrestling Conference, head coach Greg Williams is anticipating a big 2013-14 campaign from his veteran Utah Valley University wrestling squad.

The Wolverines will welcome back nine of their 10 starters from last year's team that went 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the WWC, as well as two who wrestled at the "Big Show" in Des Moines, Iowa. The lone starter from the 2012-13 season who has since departed is two-time NCAA Qualifier and one-time conference champion Josh Wilson (149 pounds).

"We have high expectations for this year," Williams said. "We only lost one wrestler last year in Josh Wilson but we have three seniors this year that will provide us good leadership. We also return nine guys who wrestled for us at conference last year, so we're definitely expecting great things."

Williams will look to his three seniors — 141-pounder Avery Garner, 165-pounder Curtis Abner Cook and 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus — to lead his team this year as he has named them all team captains. The trio of Wolverines had successful 2012-13 campaigns as together they combined to go 56-31, and Garner and Schmalhaus both recorded 20-win seasons. All three also capped last season by placing second in their respective weight classes at the NCAA West Regional/WWC Championships.

"We came fairly close of achieving our goal of winning conference last year, and we feel like that it is something we can accomplish this season," Williams said. "We expect all of our individuals to do well as we return two NCAA Qualifiers and three seniors who were all runners-up at last year's conference tournament. Those three are definitely hungry and really want to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season."

The eighth-year head coach will also anticipate big things from his two returning NCAA Qualifiers: sophomore Jade Rauser (125 pounds) and junior heavyweight Adam Fager. After wrestling at the NCAA Championships last year, Rauser and Fager are ranked nationally in a number of preseason polls. Rauser is ranked as high as 13th by InterMat, while Fager comes in at 20th on a couple of the polls. Rauser had a stellar redshirt freshman year in which he went 21-10, 6-1 in duals and led the team in falls with nine. Rauser, who became UVU's first-ever freshman to compete at the NCAA Championships last year, went 1-2 at his first trip to nationals with a pin over Indiana's Joe Duca. Fager also surpassed 20 victories last season as he went 20-12 and a perfect 6-0 in WWC action. The UVU heavyweight was one of two Wolverines to win a conference title last year. Fager concluded his season by going 0-2 at his first appearance at nationals but nearly defeated Penn State's Jimmy Lawson in his final match as he fell, 5-4.

Utah Valley also returns four other starters from last year's team in junior Ethan Smith (184), as well as sophomores Chasen Tolbert (133), Chase Cuthbertson (157) and Derek Thomas (197). Smith and Thomas will move up to new weight classes this season as Smith will bump up from 157 all the way to 184, while Thomas will shift from 184 to 197.

Tolbert led the way out of the four with 13 victories last season, while Cuthbertson and Smith each recorded 10 and Thomas put up nine. At the conference championships, Tolbert took third, while Smith and Thomas each placed fourth.

"We've also had a lot of improvement during the offseason. Chasen Tolbert, Chase Cuthbertson, Ethan Smith and Derek Thomas all worked very hard and are looking good," Williams said. "There is a lot of experience as well as confidence throughout the lineup. Our workouts are way ahead of where they were last year."

To fill Wilson's spot at 149-pounds will most likely be transfer Trevor Willson, who comes to UVU after wrestling his freshman campaign at Arizona State last season. Willson, a sophomore from Tucson, Ariz., went 1-3 in limited action for the Sun Devils in 2012-13.