OKLAHOMA CITY — The state of Utah will be well represented when the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament begins Thursday. Taking to the mat for the Utah Valley Wolverines will be four wrestlers, led by Layton’s Adam Fager. The junior owns a record of 18-7 and is seeded 15th in the heavyweight division and opens his tournament with a showdown against unseeded William Smith of Rutgers.
“I’m excited to go out and get after things,” Fager said. “I’m wrestling to win it or be an All-American. I’m as good as any of the other guys out there in my weight class.”
The top eight placers in each weight class are All-American.
Sophomore Jade Rauser, of Townsend, Mont., (10-3) will open the tournament, again wrestling against No. 1 seed and defending national champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois. Rauser was knocked out of the tournament by Delgado a year ago.
Senior Boise native Avery Garner (14-8) faces No. 15 seed Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State while senior Wolverine Abner Cook of Pocatello, Idaho, (7-7) will take on No. 2 seed Tyler Caldwell, also of OSU.
Utah Valley University is not alone when it comes to Beehive State representatives at the tournament. Penn State is in search of its fourth consecutive NCAA team title and is led by head coach Cael Sanderson and associate head coach and Sanderson’s brother, Cody. The Sandersons were wrestling superstars out of Wasatch High in Heber City. The Sanderson coaches rely heavily on West Valley City resident and former Olympus High state champion Matt Brown. A returning All-American, Brown (28-4) is seeded fourth and will open with a match against eighth seeded Cody Walters of Ohio.
The final Utah wrestler is two-time NCAA All-American senior Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa. A four-time state champ out of Mountain Crest High, Lofthouse enters the tournament with a 20-3 record and a fifth seed. He will open the tournament against eighth seeded Tim Dudley of Nebraska.
The tournament will begin Thursday and wrap up Saturday night.