The Utah Valley University wrestling team officially opens its 2017-18 campaign on Friday at the Clarion Duals in Clarion, Pennsylvania. The Wolverines will face a trio of opponents on the day, in Big 12 Conference foe West Virginia, the host Clarion Golden Eagles and Kent State.
Friday's dual meets are set for 1:30 p.m. MT (vs. WVU), 3:00 p.m. (vs. Clarion) and 4:30 p.m. (vs. Kent State). All three duals will be contested at Clarion Area High School and will be Facebook Live streamed to the UVU Wrestling page. Following Friday's action, the Wolverines will remain in Clarion to take part in the Clarion Open on Sunday. Sunday's tournament begins at 7 a.m., at Clarion's Student Recreation Center and will be streamed live on FloWrestling.
"We are excited to start the season," said head UVU coach Greg Williams. "The guys have put a lot of time preparing this summer and fall so it will be fun to see them get the opportunity to wrestle against some great competition."
UVU, which went 5-6 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 Conference action last year, will begin its third season of competition in the Big 12 this season. The Wolverines welcome back a pair of returning NCAA qualifiers in senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison and sophomore 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff. Dennison, Orndorff and fellow sophomore 174-pounder Kimball Bastian enter the season nationally ranked, as Dennison comes in ranked as high as 16th by TrackWrestling, Bastian is currently ranked 18th by FloWrestling and Orndorff is tabbed 21st by TrackWrestling.
Utah Valley also returns eight starters from a year ago in Bastian, Dennison and Orndorff, as well as senior Jarod Maynes (141), sophomore Grant LaMont (149), junior Raider Lofthouse (157), sophomore Koy Wilkinson (165) and junior Will Sumner (184). The Wolverines also look to mix in four redshirt freshmen into the starting lineup this season in 2016 Junior World Bronze Medalist Taylor LaMont (125), Durbin Lloren (133), Matt Findlay (141) and Gary Jantzer (184), as well as Boise State transfer Demetrius Romero (165).
"We are especially excited to watch our redshirt freshmen, Taylor LaMont, DJ Lloren and Gary Jantzer, as well as transfer Demetrius Romero, finally get a chance to officially compete for UVU for the first time," Williams said. "Unfortunately, redshirt freshman Matt Findlay will be recovering for a few weeks from an injury so his opening performance will be delayed."
Friday's dual meets will mark the first all-time meetings against all three opponents.
About West Virginia
The Big 12 Mountaineers went 4-12 overall and 1-3 in conference duals a season ago and are currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. WVU's lone Big 12 victory last season was a 22-20 win over Iowa State. Three-time NCAA qualifier Jake Smith (197) and 2015 All-American and NCAA Runner-Up Zeke Moisey (125) lead the way for West Virginia, as they enter the season ranked as high as No. 6 and No. 7 by FloWrestling, respectively.
Clarion, which is an NCAA Division II member in the majority of its sports, is an NCAA Division I member in the sport of wrestling and calls the Eastern Wrestling League home. The Golden Eagles posted a 6-10 overall record a season ago and a 3-3 mark in the EWL. Brock Zacherl (141) and Jake Gromacki (125) lead the way for Clarion, as they are currently ranked 10th and 19th by InterMat, respectively.
About Kent State
The Golden Flashes are coming off a 2-15 season a year ago and a 0-8 mark in the MAC. Kent State will first host Lake Erie and Mercyhurst North East at noon, on Friday, in Kent, Ohio, before making the trek to Clarion, Pennsylvania, to take on the Wolverines that evening. The Flashes return a pair of 2017 NCAA qualifiers in Anthony Tutolo (133) and Casey Sparkman (157).
About the Clarion Open
Following Friday's action, the Wolverines will take part in the Clarion Open on Sunday, beginning at 7 a.m. Wrestlers from Bloomsburg, Clarion, Cleveland State, Indiana, Kent State, Lock Haven, UVU and WVU are expected to take part in the open tournament. The event will be streamed live on FloWrestling (for a fee).
Up next for UVU
After a two-week break, the Wolverines will return to the East Coast to take part in both the Wolfpack Duals and the Wolfpack Open on Nov. 18 and 19, at NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. There, UVU will take on UNC Pembroke, Reinhardt and No. 8 NC State.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.