Utah wrestlers making huge impact at NCAA meet

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 6:42 a.m. MDT

Utah Valley's stellar wrestler Benjamin Kjar (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News) Utah Valley's stellar wrestler Benjamin Kjar (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

PHILADELPHIA — Former Tooele High wrestling star Andrew Hochstrasser, who is now wrestling for Boise State, is just one match away from a NCAA title at 133 pounds. Hochstrasser has gone 4-0 in the tournament and now faces Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver for the title.

Oliver is the only wrestler to defeat the former Buffalo star this season. Hochstrasser, the No. 2 seed, defeated Penn State's Andrew Long 6-4 in the semifinals to reach college wrestling's biggest stage.

Speaking of Penn State, the Nittany Lion, who are coached former Wasatch High state champion Cael Sanderson, are on the verge of winning their first NCAA title since 1953.

Sanderson is considered by most as the best college wrestler in history with his 159-0-career record and four NCAA titles. He also won four state titles at Wasatch.

The Nittany Lions placed three wrestlers in the championship finals including Frank Molinaro at 149 pounds, who defeated Boise State's Jason Chamberlain, a four-time state champion from Springville High School in the semifinals.

Still, the former Red Devil grappling star will be an All-American. Behind Hochstrasser and Chamberlain, Boise State is currently in eighth place.

Ben Kjar (125 pounds) made history for the UVU wrestling program in becoming the first All-American in school history. Kjar upset both the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds before falling to the No. 1 seed Anthony Robles of Arizona State in the semifinals.

One other Utahn, Luke Lofthouse, battled back after losing in the second round to become an All-American for Iowa at 197 pounds. Lofthouse, as well as Chamberlain and Kjar, can still finish third in the tournament.

UVU qualified three wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament: At 133, Flint Ray, who prepped at Roy High School, went 3-2 and was one match from making the Top 8 and All-American honors. Teammate Justin Morrill, who prepped at Mountain Crest High School, went 1-2 at 141 pounds.

UVU is currently in 34th place out of the 73 teams in the field that qualified wrestlers for this year's championships.

There were several other Utah wrestlers in the NCAA field: Matt Casperson (Pine View HS/Boise State) at 197 pounds, Ethen Lofthouse (Mountain Crest HS/Iowa) at 174 pounds, Levi Mele (Uintah HS/Northwestern) at 133 pounds, and Colton Salazar (Wasatch HS/Purdue) at 157 pounds.

Wrestling will continue Saturday with wrestlers competing in the medals rounds. The finals will be televised on ESPN beginning at noon.

Brian E. Preece. Preece is a freelance writer who specializes in prep sports and particularly wrestling. Preece was the head wrestling coach at Provo HS from 1994-2006.

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