LARAMIE, Wyo. — Seven Utah Valley University wrestlers kicked off their 2013-14 seasons Saturday at the Cowboy Open in Laramie, Wyo. With a limited squad on hand at the tournament, 125-pounder Bracken Nipko, 133-pounder Chasen Tolbert, 197-pounder Derek Thomas and heavyweight Richard Larsen led the way by each going 2-2 on the afternoon.
"It was a great tournament for our younger guys to wrestle at," head coach Greg Williams said. "I thought Bracken Nipko competed well, but I think all of our guys came away feeling that they can do better and improve following this experience."
The redshirt freshman Nipko started off strong for the Wolverines as he won his first two bouts in the elite 125-pound bracket. Nipko first picked up a 12-1 major decision victory over Great Falls' Jared Berlinger and followed it up by beating CSU Pueblo's Eric Hughes in the quarterfinals. Nipko then fell to Arizona State's Ares Carpio, 5-0, in the semis before being eliminated by Boise State's Rami Haddadin by a mere point, 5-4, in the consolation semifinals.
The sophomore Tolbert too won his first two matches Saturday, as he pinned Wyoming's Sean O`Leary in his opener (2:19) and beat Nebraska-Kearney's Ryan Bauer by decision (5-0) in the quarterfinals. Last year's 133-pound starter for UVU, then had his tournament run ended by a pair of conference foes from the Air Force Academy in his next two bouts as he fell to Greg Rinker, 9-5, in the semis and lost via forfeit in the consolation semis to Carter McElhany.
After dropping his opening bout to Wyoming's Shane Woods by fall, Thomas — who started for the Wolverines at 184-pounds last year and has since bumped up a weight class this season — rebounded nicely by winning his next two matches. The UVU sophomore defeated the Cowboys' Brandon Tribble, 9-5, and CSU Pueblo's Chris Frisbie, 5-0, before having his tournament run brought to an end by ASU's Chace Eskam in the consolation semis.
In the amateur heavyweight bracket, the freshman Larsen began his career as a Wolverine by pinning his first two collegiate opponents. Larsen first pinned Colorado's Tommy O`Donnell in the second period and followed it up by pinning Idaho's Tyrel Beare in the third. Larsen then lost to Garrett Ryan (OTC) by technical fall in the quarterfinals before being eliminated by his teammate and fellow freshman Jordan Karst, who was competing unattached at the tournament, by fall.
Also competing for UVU at the open tournament were 141-pounder Sam Mecham, 149-pounder Trevor Willson and 157-pounder Logan Addis. The sophomore Addis posted a 1-2 record on the day, while the junior Mecham and the sophomore transfer from Arizona State Willson each went 0-2.
Karst, along with fellow redshirts Maxwell Sultan (141 pounds), Koleton Hardy (157), Ross Taylor (165), Ty Rosevear (184) and Aryton Almberg (197) all wrestled unattached to UVU at the tournament. Hardy led the way by finishing his opening tournament by placing fourth with a 4-2 record. Karst was next as he went 3-2, while Taylor finished with a 2-2 clip. Sultan, Hardy and Rosevear went 1-2 apiece.
Another contingent of Wolverine wrestlers will head to Grand Junction, Colo., next weekend to take part at the Colorado Mesa Open. The following week, UVU will take its entire starting 10 for the first time this season to Michigan to face No. 24 Central Michigan on Friday, Nov. 15. The Wolverines will take on Michigan State, Ohio and Gardner-Webb the following day at the Eastern Michigan Duals.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.