Redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont led the way for the Utah Valley University wrestling team by advancing to the quarterfinal round of the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships with a pair of victories at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday. LaMont will become just UVU's second all-time quarterfinalist, as former All-American Benjamin Kjar achieved the feat for the Wolverines in 2011.
The seventh-seeded 125-pound LaMont went a perfect 2-0 on the day, which included pulling out a 6-5 decision over No. 10 Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern during Thursday evening's second session on his way to advancing to Friday's quarterfinal round.
Two other Wolverines remain alive in the consolation brackets of the tournament after each going 1-1 on the day. After suffering first-round setbacks, sophomores Demetrius Romero (165 pounds) and Kimball Bastian (174) responded by winning elimination matches on Thursday evening to advance to Friday's second day of action.
The three grapplers advancing to day two of the NCAA Championships matches a program high from the 2010 season when Kjar (125), Flint Ray (133) and Brad Darrington (174) advanced to the second day of competition at the Big Show.
"Taylor wrestled well today. He was really smart against the talented Rivera in his second match to get into the quarterfinals," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "He dominated the positions and attacks the first two periods then played position in the third period. When he is 100 percent, he will wrestle the whole match aggressively.
"We were also pleased with Demetrius and Kimball's energy and aggressiveness tonight. Demetrius stayed on offense through all three periods. Kimball wrestled smart and aggressive for a big win against a returning All-American. If they do the same things on Friday, they should have some positive results."
After holding on to record a 3-2 victory in his inaugural NCAA Championship match over Northern Illinois' Brock Hudkins (17-11) earlier in the day, LaMont then matched up with the No. 10 seed from Northwestern Sebastian Rivera in Thursday evening's second session. LaMont jumped out to an early lead after a pair of first-period takedowns to jump out to a 4-1 lead. Rivera (27-6) responded with two escapes to make it 4-3. LaMont then picked up an escape in the third, but Rivera tied the match at 5-5 with a takedown. With the clock winding down in the final stanza, LaMont sealed the victory with a final escape to take the tightly-contested bout by a score of 6-5.
With the win, LaMont (27-3) advances to Friday morning's quarterfinal round for a date with three-time All-American and former national champion No. 2 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State (13-1).
After falling to No. 11 Isaiah White (25-6) of Nebraska in the opening round by a score of 9-4, Romero bounced back nicely in a must-win bout by defeating two-time NCAA qualifier Quentin Perez (25-10) of Campbell by major decision. Romero was the aggressor in the bout, as he jumped out to a 7-1 lead after recording a trio of takedowns in the first two periods. Romero then finished off the bonus-point win with three more takedowns and a riding time point to win by a score of 14-4.
Romero (26-8) now advances on in the consolation rounds against No. 12 Nicholas Wanzek of Minnesota (23-11) on Friday.
After dropping a 3-1 decision to No. 11 David Kocer (25-7) of South Dakota State earlier, Bastian responded with an 8-5 decision over 2017 All-American Brandon Womack (17-11) of Cornell in a must-win bout to advance in the wrestlebacks. The 174-pound UVU sophomore got off to a strong start in the match with a first-period takedown and a second-period escape to open up a quick 4-1 advantage. Bastian later added another takedown in the third followed by a late escape and an additional riding time point to hold on to eliminate the former All-American from the tournament.
Bastian (20-10) now advances to Friday morning's third session to face No. 12 Forrest Przybysz (25-8) of Appalachian State in the consolation bracket.
Senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison and sophomore 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff also competed for the Wolverines at the NCAA Championships on Thursday, but both had their 2018 runs come to a close with 0-2 showings. The outings marked both Dennison and Orndorff's second-consecutive appearance at nationals.
Dennison finishes his outstanding four-year career second all-time in the UVU record books in wins with 90 career victories (90-54), while Orndorff, who entered this year's tournament as an alternate, nearly upset No. 1 Kollin Moore (24-2) of Ohio State in the opening match. Orndorff trailed Moore by just two points late in the bout, but in the end, the top seed and 2017 All-American held on to win by a score of 12-8.
As a team, UVU sits in 36th place out of 72 teams with four team points. Ohio State leads the tournament with 36 points, while Penn State follows with 28.5 and Iowa is in third with 27.
The 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships continue on Friday with the third session at 9 a.m. MT. Session III will be televised live on ESPNU. The fourth session (that includes the semifinals) takes place on Friday at 6 p.m., and will air live on ESPN.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.