The Utah Valley University wrestling team heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend for the 2018 Big 12 Wrestling Championship. The two-day qualifying tournament will run Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4, at the BOK Center.
The opening session of the championship event begins Saturday at 10 a.m. MT, while the tournament's second session follows at 4 p.m. Action will then resume Sunday at 11 a.m., and the tournament will close with the championship finals on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Every match of the first three sessions will be streamed on FloWrestling (subscription required), while Sunday evening's finals will be televised live on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (in Utah), as well as a number of other regional Fox Sports Networks. Live results can also be followed for the duration of the tournament by visiting FloWrestling.
"We are excited to be heading into the postseason. This is what the guys have been working for since last March," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "They've had a great couple of weeks of practice and are ready to get after it this weekend. This is a very competitive conference and there will be no easy matches. It's a fun challenge for our guys, and they have prepared all year to be successful. Now they have to go out and get it (an NCAA berth)."
The Wolverines (8-6, 4-4 Big 12) will send a solid lineup to the 2018 Big 12 Championship this weekend that features six ranked wrestlers on the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel Rankings and RPI. Redshirt freshman 125-pounder Taylor LaMont leads the way, as he's the top-rated wrestler in the nation in the latest RPI, as well as ranked seventh in the current coaches' panel ranking. Sophomore Demetrius Romero (165 pounds) is next, as he is tabbed fifth on the current RPI and No. 16 by the coaches, while sophomore Kimball Bastian (174) is rated 20th on the RPI and 28th by the coaches, sophomore Tanner Orndorff (197) is 21st on the RPI and 31st on the coaches, redshirt freshman Gary Jantzer (184) is 26th on the RPI and senior Dustin Dennison (heavyweight) is ranked 27th by the coaches.
LaMont, who posted an impressive 22-2 record during the season, also earned UVU's highest pre-seed for the tournament by earning the No. 2 spot in his weight class. Romero (23-4) is next with the No. 3 pre-seed at 165 pounds, while the heavyweight Dennison (27-8) earned a No. 4 spot. If the seeds hold up following Friday's coaches' meeting, all three Wolverine grapplers will earn a first-round bye.
Bastian (15-7) is next by being pre-seeded fifth in his weight class, while Jantzer (18-11) and Orndorff (19-11) are both sixth, redshirt freshman Matt Findlay (9-7) is eighth at 141, redshirt freshman Durbin Lloren (13-15) and junior Matthew Ontiveros (10-13) are both 10th at 133 and 149, respectively, and junior Raider Lofthouse (1-13) rounds out the group by being pre-seeded 12th at 157.
2017 BIG 12 Championship recap
The heavyweight Dennison led the way for the Wolverines at the event a season ago by posting a second-place finish in his weight class on his way to punching his first ticket to the NCAA Championships. Bastian and Grant LaMont were next by both placing sixth a season ago, while Orndorff too advanced to the NCAA Championships by earning an at-large berth at 197 pounds. Dennison's runner-up finish was the highest by a Wolverine at the Big 12 Championship.
As a team, UVU finished ninth at last season's tournament with 32 total points. Oklahoma State won its fifth-straight Big 12 Championship title with a conference-record 176.5 points, while Oklahoma took second (93.5) and South Dakota State finished third (90.5). North Dakota State came in fourth (82.5), Wyoming fifth (71.5), Iowa State sixth (65), West Virginia seventh (50), Northern Colorado eighth (48.5) and Air Force 10th (28). This season, 2017-18 conference newcomers Fresno State and Northern Iowa will also join the event for a 12-team field.
Utah Valley 2017-18 season recap
Utah Valley recently finished its regular season with an 8-6 overall record and a 4-4 Big 12 dual clip. The eight-win season marks UVU's most wins since 2009-10 when it went 10-3, and the 4-4 Big 12 Conference mark is the Wolverines' most wins in the new league since joining the conference three seasons ago and is also good enough to tie for fifth in the league standings. After knocking off Big 12 power Oklahoma in early February, UVU earned the program's first USA Today/NWCA Top 25 ranking by holding down the 25th spot for the following week.
After being sidelined due to injury the past few weeks, LaMont and Romero are scheduled to return to action for the Wolverines at the Big 12 Championship.
Up next for UVU
Following the conclusion of the Big 12 Championship, qualified individuals will head to Cleveland, Ohio, for the NCAA Division Wrestling Championships that will take place March 15-17, at Quicken Loans Arena.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.