For the first time in program history, the Utah Valley University wrestling team has entered the USA Today/NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll as it debuts at No. 25 on the latest poll that was released on Tuesday.
The Wolverines, who have previously received votes for the poll the past three seasons, debut at No. 25 after knocking off Big 12 power Oklahoma last week by criteria (19-18). UVU currently holds an 8-3 overall record on the season and sits in third place in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 4-1 dual ledger.
"It is nice to be recognized by the coaches as a top-25 program. It shows that our program is progressing. We are all (our staff, administration and our wrestling community) proud of this program and what these young men are doing on the mat and in the classroom," said 12th-year head UVU coach Greg Williams. "This has been a united effort. We have high expectations and even though some key injuries, that we suffered this past week, will hinder our rise these last couple of weeks, we have a very young team and expect to compete at an even higher level. Our belief and plan is that our program will continue to make big strides over the next couple of years."
The UVU wrestling program becomes just the third sport in Utah Valley University history to be ranked nationally at the NCAA Division level, as baseball and men's soccer have previously held stays in the national polls.
At 8-3, Utah Valley holds its wins on the year over conference foes Oklahoma, West Virginia, North Dakota State and Fresno State, as well as non-conference opponents CSU Bakersfield, Clarion, Reinhardt and UNC Pembroke. UVU's lone losses have come to No. 6 NC State, No. 12 South Dakota State and Kent State.
Four UVU grapplers are individually ranked this week, as 125-pounder Taylor LaMont (22-2) is ranked as high as No. 6 by TrackWrestling, 165-pounder Demetrius Romero (23-4) is 16th on a number of polls, 174-pounder Kimball Bastian (12-7) re-enters the InterMat poll at No. 17 and heavyweight Dustin Dennison (25-7) is ranked 26th on the most recent NCAA Coaches' Panel ranking.
Cael Sanderson's Penn State Nittany Lions are the nation's unanimous No. 1 team, as they garnered all 16 first-place votes after defeating No. 2 Ohio State by criteria during the weekend. Ohio State remains at No. 2, while Missouri is No. 3, Michigan is No. 4 and fellow Big 12 foe Oklahoma State rounds out the top five. South Dakota State comes in at No. 12 this week, while fellow Big 12 opponents Northern Iowa and Wyoming are ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, this week.
The USA Today/NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll is voted on by two coaches from each Division I wrestling conference. Points are 25 for each first-place vote, 24 for second, 23 for third and all the way to a 25th-place vote that is one point.
The 25th-ranked Wolverines hit the road this weekend for a pair of duals at Wyoming (Feb. 9) and Air Force (Feb. 10). Friday's contest in Laramie will mark a battle of two top-25 schools, as No. 25 UVU will take on No. 17 Wyoming at 7 p.m., at the UniWyo Sports Complex. The Wolverines will then cap the trip by facing the Academy at Clune Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. Utah Valley will then close its regular season the following week by hosting Northern Colorado on Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.