The NCAA handed out its at-large selections to next week's Division I Wrestling Championships on Wednesday, and Utah Valley University heavyweight Adam Fager made the cut. With the additional bid, the Wolverines will now send a program high four wrestlers to nationals.
Fager, who was ranked 12th on the final NCAA Coaches' Panel Ranking and 15th on the latest RPI at heavyweight, received the at-large berth after going 18-7 on the season and placing second at last week's NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championships. The 2014 NCAA Championships will mark the Wolverine junior's second straight trip as he also represented UVU at the Big Show last year.
In all, 45 at-large wrestlers were selected on Wednesday. The group will join 285 student-athletes that qualified automatically through the conference and regional qualifying tournaments during the past two weekends. The at-large selections were made by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee using a selection criteria: head-to-head competition, quality wins, results against common opponents, winning percentage, rating percentage index, coaches ranking, qualifying event placement and number of matches contested at that weight class.
Garner (14-8) punched his ticket to the NCAA Championships by winning the 141-pound title at last week's West Regional, while Rauser (10-3) and Cook (7-7) came back through the wrestlebacks to earn their spots. Rauser earned his qualifying spot by winning a true second-place match, while Cook picked his up by taking third in his weight class.
Next week will mark Utah Valley's fifth straight season that its grapplers will wrestle at the NCAA Championships. The four wrestlers will be one better than its previous high of three as UVU sent three in 2009-10, three in 2010-11, one in 2011-12 and three again last season.
The NCAA also released brackets for next week's championship on Wednesday afternoon, and Rauser will open up his second consecutive trip to nationals against to top seed from Illinois Jesse Delgado (25-2). Garner will take on No. 15 Anthony Collica (28-7) from Oklahoma State, while Cook will open up against Collica's Cowboy teammate in No. 2 Tyler Caldwell (24-3). The at-large selection Fager will be UVU's lone seeded wrestler as he'll enter the tournament seeded 15th in his weight class. Fager will begin his second NCAA Championship run against Rutgers' William Smith (25-6).
The 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held March 20-22 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. For ticket information, please visit NCAA website.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company