OREM — The Utah Valley University wrestling team will send a program record six grapplers to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships this weekend, March 21-23, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Junior Tanner Orndorff (197 pounds) will compete at nationals for the third time of his career this weekend, while fellow juniors Demetrius Romero (165) and Kimball Bastian (174) will compete for the second time, and sophomore Matt Findlay (141) senior Will Sumner (184) and redshirt freshman Tate Orndorff (285) will all head to the NCAA Championships for the first time.
The 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships will run Thursday-Saturday at PPG Paints Arena and will all be televised on the ESPN family of networks. Thursday's opening session will begin at 10 a.m. MDT and will be televised on ESPNU. The second session will then take place that evening at 5 p.m. MDT and will televised on ESPN, while the third session (quarterfinals) will follow on Friday morning at 9 a.m. MDT on ESPNU and the fourth session (semifinals) will take place on Friday evening at 6 p.m. MDT. The medal rounds will then be held on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. MDT on ESPNU while the championship finals will conclude the tournament on Saturday at 5 p.m. MDT live on ESPN. Each match of the tournament will also be streamed live on ESPN3 and live results will also be available by visiting TrackWrestling.com.
With all 33 wrestlers of each weight class being seeded this year, all six Wolverines have earned top 20 seeds in their respective weight classes.
"We're looking forward to getting to Pittsburgh and are hoping to accomplish something. Last year we had only one guy seeded, so for us to have all six seeded in the top 20 this season is exciting," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "Our schedule has been just phenomenal for us this year and has really helped prepare our guys for nationals.
"We still don't have any of our guys seeded in the top eight. So they will still be underdogs to become All-Americans, but we feel like we have helped prepare all of the six to achieve their goals. It's a tough event so we'll see if it happens or not. You've got to be wrestling your best at the right time, and we hope that our guys will get out there and be ready to go."
Romero leads the way for the Wolverines by entering as the No. 9 seed at 165 pounds after winning UVU's first Big 12 championship in program history on March 10 in Tulsa. Romero went a perfect 3-0 at the Big 12s with a trio of gutsy wins over fellow national qualifiers Joe Smith of Oklahoma State, Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa and Andrew Fogarty of North Dakota State. The two-time qualifier Romero is 25-3 on the year and will open his second NCAA Championship run with an opening-round contest against No. 24 Cael McCormick of Army.
Fellow two-time qualifier Bastian will enter as the next highest seed for UVU, as he checks in as the No. 14 seed at 174 pounds. Bastian placed fourth at the 2019 Big 12s after going 2-2 with wins over No. 31 #31 Anthony Mantanona of Oklahoma and No. 23 Marcus Coleman of Iowa State. He holds an 18-10 record and will open up against No. 19 Ethan Smith of Ohio State.
The heavyweight Tate Orndorff is next as he'll enter seeded 15th in his weight class after taking third at the Big 12s and posting a stellar 24-7 record during his freshman campaign. Tate went 3-1 at the Big 12s on his way to earning the third-place finish with a pair of wins over No. 25 Brian Andrews of Wyoming and another over No. 30 Brandon Ngati of West Virginia. Tate will open his first NCAA Championships against No. 18 Joseph Goodhart of Drexel.
His older brother Tanner Orndorff will enter his third consecutive trip to nationals as the No. 19 seed at 197 pounds after going 18-12 on the season and placing sixth at the Big 12s. Tanner recorded a 3-3 performance at the Big 12 Championships with wins over Martin Mueller of South Dakota State, Cordell Eaton of North Dakota State and No. 30 Anthony McLaughlin of Air Force. Tanner will open his third NCAA Championship run against No. 14 Eric Schultz of Nebraska.
The sophomore Findlay had an impressive 2018-19 season in which he has compiled a 14-2 record while wrestling around a couple of injuries. Findlay didn't compete at the 2019 Big 12 Championships due to injury and received an at-large selection to nationals after having a standout sophomore season. After being ranked in the top-10 for a number of the weeks on the season, Findlay will enter the NCAA Championships as the No. 20 seed at 141 pounds and will open against No. 13 Kyle Shoop of Lock Haven.
Senior 184-pounder Sumner rounds out UVU's 2019 NCAA qualifiers after earning an automatic bid to his first trip to nationals with a fourth-place finish at the Big 12s. Sumner, who holds a solid 21-11 record on the season, went 4-2 at the Big 12 Championships with wins over Dalton Robertson of Northern Colorado, Tucker Nadeau of West Virginia, Zach Carlson of South Dakota State and No. 16 Tate Samuelson of Wyoming to earn the auto bid. Sumner will enter as the No. 20 seed and will open his first NCAA Championship appearance against No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt.
UVU has had a very successful season in which it spent a program record 10 consecutive weeks nationally ranked in the NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. After knocking off both No. 15 Rutgers and No. 13 Purdue of the Big Ten Conference early in the season, the Wolverines found themselves ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation. After suffering a number of key injuries down the stretch, UVU then finished the regular season with a 10-14 overall record and posted a 1-8 mark in Big 12 duals.
By recording a record five podium finishes at the Big 12 Championships as well as crowning the program's inaugural Big 12 champion in Romero, UVU also posted its best finish at the Big 12 Championship finish by taking sixth with 59 points. Utah Valley finished just a half point behind Fresno State (59.5) for fifth and were just ahead of Wyoming (58) and North Dakota State (53.5).
UVU ALL-TIME AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
With a program-high six qualifiers this year, UVU has now claimed a total of 32 NCAA qualifiers in its 10 season of competition as a full-fledged NCAA Division I member. UVU has had at least one wrestler compete at nationals in each of the past nine seasons and sent a then-program record of five a season ago. Utah Valley has crowned a total of two All-Americans in program history in Benjamin Kjar (125) in 2011 and Jade Rauser in 2016 (133). Kjar reached the semifinals in Philadelphia in 2011 en route to posting a program-best fourth that season, while Rauser reeled off an impressive four-match winning streak in 2016 on his way to taking eighth. Just last season, seventh-seeded Taylor LaMont — who is out for the 2018-19 season with an injury — finished just one win shy of earning All-American honors for UVU.
NCAA Championship format1 comment on this story
Each weight class consists of 33 wrestlers for a grand total of 330 grapplers at the national championship event that will be competed under double-elimination format. The three-day NCAA Championships will feature two sessions of wrestling each day.
Utah Valley's first-round matcnes
141 — #20 Matt Findlay (14-2) vs. #13 Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven, 31-6)
165 — #9 Demetrius Romero (25-3) vs. #24 Cael McCormick (Army, 18-8)
174 — #14 Kimball Bastian (18-10) vs. #19 Ethan Smith (Ohio State, 18-11)
184 — #20 Will Sumner (21-11) vs. #13 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt, 19-6)
197 — #19 Tanner Orndorff (18-12) vs. #14 Eric Schultz (Nebraska, 21-11)
285 — #15 Tate Orndorff (24-7) vs. #18 Joseph Goodhart (Drexel, 33-7)