The Utah Valley University wrestling team, as well as redshirt freshmen Kimball Bastian and Tanner Orndorff, were honored by the National Wrestling Coaches Association on Tuesday for achieving all-academic honors. UVU earned a spot on the NWCA Division I All-Academic Top 30 Teams list after posting the 13th-best team GPA in the nation, while Bastian and Orndorff were named to the institution's Individual All-Academic Team.
The Wolverines recorded a 3.329 grade-point average, while Bastian (174 pounds) and Orndorff (197) earned NWCA Individual All-Academic Team honors for the first time in their careers after posting respective cumulative GPAs of 3.28 and 3.34. Bastian is pursuing his degree in exercise science and outdoor recreation, while Orndorff is majoring in computer science.
This year marks the eighth time in the last nine years that UVU has earned a spot on the NWCA All-Academic Top 30 Teams list. The Utah Valley wrestling team, which moved up five spots this year after posting the 18th-best GPA last season, recorded its highest finish of fourth following the 2011-12 season with a 3.27 GPA.
UVU is one of three Big 12 Conference institutions to make the cut this year, as fellow wrestling affiliates, North Dakota State (No. 5, 3.396 GPA) and South Dakota State (No. 12, 3.336 GPA), were also honored.
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, Harvard earned top honors in 2017 with a 3.586 GPA.
The team GPA was determined using a system that includes 12 student-athletes from each program. A total of 10 of these came from the wrestlers that were entries in the NCAA tournament conference qualifier.
"In the current landscape of college athletics, it's imperative that our programs perform in the classroom and show their value to the school, not just in performance on the mat, but performance in the classroom," said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. "We have teams actively trying to break into the top 30 of the All-Academic standings because it's something they can be proud of as a team and something their administrators can be proud of as a school."
Bastian made the cut for the first time for the individual team after going 21-13 during his redshirt freshman campaign. He also posted a sixth-place finish at the Big 12 Championship and just missed out on qualifying for his first trip to nationals after finishing the season ranked 32nd in his weight class in the final RPI. Bastian also went 8-3 in duals and 10-4 against Big 12 Conference foes.
Orndorff too received his first NWCA All-Academic accolades after qualifying for nationals for the first time this season via an at-large berth. He finished the 2016-17 campaign with a 21-16 overall record and a 1-2 ledger at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Orndorff also went 8-3 in duals and 6-6 against Big 12 opponents. He finished the year ranked 31st in his weight class in both the final NCAA Coaches' Panel Rankings and the RPI.
Awarded annually, the NWCA All-Academic Individual Team is comprised of 135 student-athletes. Four Division I champions made the team, while six additional runners-up were included. In all, 35 All-Americans were All-Academic selections.
Of the 135 individuals, 115 wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Division I Championships, up from 101 last season and an increase of 19 since 2014-15.
Stanford led the way by putting seven of its wrestlers on the all-academic squad. Forty different institutions placed multiple wrestlers on the All-Academic team and 56 of Division I's 76 active programs were represented.
A trio of two-time champions led the honorees on the individual team. Oklahoma State's Dean Heil (141 pounds), Penn State's Zain Retherford (149 pounds) and Ohio State's Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) were each represented as was Penn State's Jason Nolf, the champion at 157 pounds.
To qualify for the NWCA All-Academic team, wrestlers must have at least a 3.2 cumulative GPA, been an NCAA qualifier or won 60 percent of his total schedule and must have competed in at least 60 percent of said schedule. Wrestlers can also earn a spot on the team if they have a 3.0 cumulative GPA and been an NCAA All-American.
"It's a good message to send to our membership and fanbase that nearly three quarters of our Division I teams have representation on the All-Academic team," said Moyer. "We like those numbers."
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.