Utah Valley University redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont had his inaugural trip to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships come to a close just one win shy of securing an All-America finish on Friday evening at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
The seventh-seeded UVU 125-pounder finished his first trip to nationals with a 2-2 record after dropping a tightly-contested battle in his final match to former NCAA runner-up and 13th-seeded Zeke Moisey of West Virginia in the consolation quarterfinals on Friday evening by a score of 8-5.
After going a perfect 2-0 on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over two-time NCAA qualifier Brock Hudkins of Northern Illinois and a 6-5 decision over No. 10 Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern, LaMont became just the second Wolverine in program history to advance to the quarterfinal round. In the quarters against the three-time All-American and second-seeded Tomasello, the match stayed close in the early stages as the four-time Big Ten champion held just a 2-1 lead over the UVU redshirt freshman after the opening stanza. Tomasello then recorded two more takedowns in the second to take a 6-3 advantage and put the match away in the third to win by a score of 12-4.
LaMont then dropped to what is known as Friday evening's "Blood Round" to face conference foe and former All-American Moisey for the fourth time on the season with an All-America finish on the line. Moisey held a 2-1 lead after the opening period, but back fought the 2016 Junior World Bronze medalist LaMont with a pair of second-period escapes, as well as a last-second takedown off an impressive throw, to take a 5-4 advantage with just one period to go. In the third, the 13th-seeded Moisey recorded an escape, a go-ahead takedown and an additional riding time point to even the season series at 2-2 and eliminate LaMont just one win shy of placing at the national tournament.
LaMont, who was UVU's highest-ever seeded grappler in program history after earning the No. 7 seed to the event this season, finished his impressive redshirt freshman campaign with one of the best season records in school history by going 27-5.
UVU sent a program-high five wrestlers to the national tournament this season, but the other four had their runs come to a close in previous sessions. Sophomores Demetrius Romero (165 pounds) and Kimball Bastian led the way by advancing to Friday's second day of action, while senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison and sophomore 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff ended their second-consecutive appearances at the NCAA Championships on Thursday. Romero and Bastian wrestled their way to identical 1-2 records at nationals, while Dennison and Orndorff each went 0-2.
After all four suffered opening-round setbacks, Romero and Bastian responded by picking up wins on Thursday's second session to advance to Friday's second day of action. Romero earned a dominant 14-4 victory over two-time NCAA qualifier Quentin Perez of Campbell, while Bastian picked up a big win over 2017 All-American Brandon Womack of Cornell by a score of 8-5. Romero was then eliminated during Friday morning's session by falling to No. 12 Nick Wanzek of Minnesota, 6-4, while Bastian too had his first NCAA Championship run come to a close by suffering a 4-2 overtime setback to No. 12 Forrest Przybysz of Appalachian State.
As a team, UVU ends its 2018 NCAA Championship run currently in a tie for 43rd place with four points. Penn State leads the tournament with 109 points, while Ohio State is in second (87.5) and Iowa sits in third (75).
The 2018 Division I Wrestling Championships conclude on Saturday. Session V (the medal rounds) begins at 9 a.m. MT, and will air live on ESPNU, while the championship finals take place Saturday on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.