Just a day removed from being named an alternate for the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Utah Valley University 197-pound sophomore Tanner Orndorff received word from the NCAA on Wednesday that he has officially earned a spot to wrestle at nationals for the second-consecutive season. With the addition, UVU will now send a program-high five grapplers to the NCAA Championships this season.
Orndorff, who originally just missed out on earning an at-large bid to the 2018 NCAA Championships on Tuesday, was selected as the first alternate for his weight class. He then received word that someone from the 197-pound weight class had to withdraw from the national tournament due to injury and he would be receiving the vacant spot.
Orndorff has compiled a 21-13 record on the season and recently wrestled his way to a 2-2 outing at the 2018 Big 12 Championship last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also finished the regular season ranked 31st in his weight class in the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel Ranking and 21st on the RPI.
Orndorff will join his teammates Taylor LaMont (125 pounds), Demetrius Romero (165), Kimball Bastian (174) and Dustin Dennison (285) at the 2018 NCAA Championships next week, as the other four earned automatic bids to nationals at the Big 12 Championships last weekend.
The redshirt freshman LaMont (25-3) and the senior Dennison (30-9) led the way by both placing third at the 2018 Big 12 Championship, while the sophomore Bastian (19-9) took third at 174 and Romero (25-7) placed sixth at 165. The 2018 NCAA Championships will mark the second-straight trip for Dennison and Orndorff and the first for LaMont, Romero and Bastian.
The NCAA also released brackets and seeding for the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships on Wednesday, and LaMont led the way by being the lone Wolverine to earn a national seed. The Utah Valley 125-pounder enters the tournament as the No. 7 seed in his weight class after going 25-3 on the year, placing third at the Big 12 Championships and winning a prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational title in December. LaMont enters his first trip at the national tournament against Northern Illinois' Brock Hudkins (17-10).
All four other Wolverines enter the tournament unseeded. Romero opens his inaugural NCAA Championship run against No. 11 Isaiah White of Nebraska. Bastian faces a familiar foe in his opening-round match against No. 11 David Kocer of South Dakota State (24-6). Orndorff received a tough draw, as he opens up against the No. 1 overall seed in Ohio State's Kollin Moore (22-2). Dennison rounds out the group and too opens against a familiar foe in the 2018 Big 12 Champion ninth-seeded Derek White of Oklahoma State (23-2).
The five Wolverines mark a program high for Utah Valley. It passes the previous record of four set by Curtis Abner Cook, Adam Fager, Avery Garner and Jade Rauser in 2014. This season will also mark UVU's ninth-consecutive year of sending at least one wrestler to nationals.
The 2018 NCAA Championships will run March 15-17, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. All six sessions of this year's tournament will be televised live on the ESPN Family of Networks, and every match of the competition will also be streamed live on WatchESPN (ESPN3).
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.