After posting a strong opening portion of the 2017-18 season the past six weeks on the road, the Utah Valley University wrestling team now returns home to host Big 12 Conference foe North Dakota State for a conference dual meet on Friday, Dec. 15, at noon. Admission to the matinee Big 12 contest is free and will be contested at UVU's Lockhart Arena.
UVU and NDSU each enter Friday's dual meet currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll after Utah Valley's strong showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and North Dakota State's recent 19-16 upset win over No. 18 Central Michigan. The Wolverines enter the contest with a 4-2 overall record and a 1-0 mark in Big 12 action, while the Bison enter with a 1-3 record and a 0-2 showing in conference competition.
Following Friday's dual, UVU and NDSU will head to Reno, Nevada, for the Reno Tournament of Champions that will be contested on Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Reno Events Center. The all-day tournament, that is dubbed the "Toughest Tournament in the USA," will begin at 10 a.m. MT. The finals and medal rounds are then slated to take place later on Sunday at 7 p.m.
The Wolverines enter Friday's home dual off a strong showing at the CKLV Invitational where they placed 19th out of 46 teams. Redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont led the way by going a perfect 6-0 en route to winning the 125-pound title. LaMont knocked off four ranked foes that included three former All-Americans on his way to becoming UVU's first champion at the premier tournament.
After winning his first two matches of the CKLV Invite by fall, LaMont then defeated No. 9 seed and 18th-ranked Drew Mattin of Michigan (8-5) to advance to the quarterfinals. LaMont then knocked off the highest ranked opponent in program history in the quarters, when he upset the top seed and third-ranked Ethan Lizak of Minnesota (4-3). The UVU redshirt freshman then defeated the No. 5 seed and 11th-ranked Connor Schram of Stanford (4-1, TB-2) in the semis and the No. 3 seed and eighth-ranked Sean Russell of Edinboro (4-3) in the title bout.
LaMont not only caught the attention from the conference level by winning Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week honors but also from the national level as his CKLV Invitational performance earned him NCAA Wrestling, USA Wrestling and FloWrestling Wrestler of the Week honors.
Two Wolverines ranked
LaMont also entered the top 10 in the national rankings, as he currently finds himself ranked sixth at 125 pounds by InterMat, FloWrestling and TheOpenMat to become UVU's highest ranked wrestler in program history. Sophomore 165-pounder Demetrius Romero, who too had a strong showing at the CKLV Invite by going 4-2, is also ranked as he finds himself ranked as high as 16th in his weight class by FloWrestling.
LaMont leads the Wolverines on the season with an 18-2 win-loss record, while Romero is next with an 18-4 clip and 2017 NCAA qualifier and senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison follows with a 17-4 mark.
About North Dakota State
The Bison come to Orem with a 1-3 record but off a big 19-16 home victory over No. 18 Central Michigan on Sunday in Fargo. Cordell Eaton (197 pounds) and Dan Stibral (285) won the final two matches to give the dual to NDSU. All of North Dakota State's four dual meets on the season have been against nationally ranked foes, as it also holds losses to No. 3 Oklahoma State (40-3), No. 8 Iowa (38-6) and No. 13 Northern Iowa (21-19). NDSU is currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll and ranked No. 24 in the most recent InterMat poll.
Three Bison enter Friday's contest individually ranked. Andrew Fogarty (18-5) is currently ranked 12th at 165 pounds, Clay Ream (9-3) is 14th at 165 and Cam Sykora (5-2) is 22nd at 133.
Friday's meeting will mark the 12th all-time meeting between UVU and NDSU. North Dakota State holds a 9-2 series lead, but Utah Valley knocked off the then 23rd-ranked Bison, 22-16, in Fargo last season.
About the Reno Tournament of Champions
Sunday's Reno TOC will be streamed live on FloWrestling and feature competitors from 27 different schools. Wrestlers from No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Missouri, No. 6 NC State, Campbell, Cal Poly, The Citadel, Fresno State, North Dakota State, Oregon State, Stanford, UVU, Wyoming, Adams State, Clackamas, Colorado Mesa, CSU Pueblo, Eastern Oregon, Highline, Modesto, Montana State-Northern, Northeastern JC, Simon Frasier, Simpson, Southern Oregon, Southwestern CC, Umpqua CC and the University of Providence are expected to be in attendance.
Last season, former heavyweight Jordan Karst led the way for the Wolverines by placing third in his weight class, while unattached freshmen Gary Jantzer and Durbin Lloren placed fifth at 184 and sixth at 133, respectively. This season, the majority of UVU's starters will take the RTOC off, but 17 Wolverine grapplers are still scheduled to compete.
Up next for UVU
Following this weekend's action, a handful of Utah Valley grapplers will head to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to compete in the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2. The majority of the team will be off until Jan. 12, however, when No. 16 South Dakota State comes to town for a Big 12 Conference dual.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.