One Team All Green

UVU Wrestlers Head to the NCAA Championships Full of Confidence

Brett Rojo/Big 12 Conference

For the first time in program history, six Utah Valley University wrestlers will compete at the NCAA Championships. Led by Big 12 Champion Demetrius Romero, UVU will invade Pittsburg looking to make noise on the national scene. And, according to head coach Greg Williams, all six of the UVU wrestlers competing believe they can earn a spot on the podium when all is said and done. Instead of the usual unseeded positioning, all six wrestlers are ranked in the top-20 in their respective weight classes. Romero is No. 9 at 165 pounds. Kimball Bastian is the No. 14 seed at 174 pounds. Tate Orndorff is No. 15 in the heavyweight division. Three-time qualifier Tanner Orndorff is 19th at 197 pounds. And first-time qualifiers Matt Findlay (141) and Will Sumner (184) are both ranked 20th in their respective weight classes.

“We’re hoping to go there and accomplish something,” UVU head coach Greg Williams said. “Last year we went and had one guy ranked in the top-10. Everybody else was ranked outside the top-20. One of the things I was looking at for this year was that we have talent and we need to get these guys to this higher level. We need to be top-15. We need to not be over here between 20 and 33. And hopefully making it and knowing we’re going to make it and that we’re going to be able to compete. 

We put together a schedule this year that was phenomenal to prepare our guys for postseason. We wrestled 11 teams that ended up ranked in the top-25. Several ranked guys and all of our RPI’s are really good. The whole purpose of that is to prepare them for this (NCAA Championships). And now we have most of our guys in the top-15 and all six guys are in the top-20. It’s still an underdog as it’s not in the top-8. So, none of our guys are favored to be an All-American. But we feel like they’re prepared to be All-Americans. Any of them. Any of the six.”

Matt Findlay

Weight – 141 pounds

Overall record – 14-2

Big 12 Championships – Withdrew due to injury

NCAA seed – No. 20

First round opponent – No. 13 Kyle Shoop – Lock Haven

Outlook – When healthy, Matt Findlay is very dangerous. Findlay defeated then-No. 6 Chad Red of Nebraska in his first match of the season. Against 17th-ranked Wisconsin, Findlay again knocked off a ranked opponent in 13th-ranked Tristan Moran. Following that win, Findlay ballooned up to No. 8 at 141 pounds. At the South Beach Duals, Findlay went 3-1 with his lone loss to then-5th ranked Mitch McKee of Minnesota. However, the injury bug has plagued Findlay since a 6-4 decision over CSU Bakersfield’s Carlos Herrera on Jan. 25. It is actually the last time Findlay wrestled. According to head coach Greg Williams, Findlay isn’t going to be 100 percent but he will be ready to wrestle and compete at the NCAA Championships.

“Our goal for him is to let it loose and not worry about any injuries that he’s had and see what happens,” Williams said. “Is he 100 percent? Absolutely not. But, he’s going to wrestle 100 percent based on how he feels and he’s going to go out and try to reach his goal.

Demetrius Romero

Weight – 165 pounds

Overall record – 25-3

Big 12 Championships – 1st Place

NCAA seed – No. 9

First round opponent – No. 24 Cael McCormick – Army

Outlook – It might not always be pretty but Romero gets the job done. And his work ethic has paid off by becoming the first UVU wrestler to win a Big 12 Championship. Romero beat two ranked opponents in dramatic fashion to win the Big 12 and has shown character throughout the entire season. Of the three losses that Romero has suffered, two of them came against top-10 opponents. Romero lost to then-No. 2 Evan Wick of Wisconsin and then-No. 8 Branson Ashworth of Wyoming. Romero’s only other loss came at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational where he finished third. Romero is the highest ranked UVU wrestler in program history at the NCAA Championships. In his first season as a Wolverine, Romero finished 1-2 at the NCAA Championships, losing to two top-15 ranked wrestlers. But, it is a different season and Romero is riding high after winning the Big 12 Championship. 

“All six guys believe they can be on that podium,” Williams said. “Demetrius knows he can place … Demetrius has improved a lot since last year … his head is to get on the podium … he has a ton of confidence in himself. He’s got a ton of confidence even if he’s behind in a match and coming back … his mentality is to get on the podium.”

Kimball Bastian

Weight – 174 pounds

Utah Valley’s Kimball Bastian is a man who controls his own destiny, according to head coach Greg Williams. Photo by Brett Rojo/Big 12 Conference

Overall record – 18-10

Big 12 Championships – 4th Place

NCAA seed – No. 14

First round opponent – No. 19 Ethan Smith – Ohio State

Outlook – Bastian is known for being aggressive and controlling the match with his quickness. When Bastian controls a match and is the aggressor, it usually results in a win for the junior from Mapleton. It is when Bastian gets a little hesitant or starts thinking about things that he finds himself in trouble. Bastian has beat five wrestlers ranked in the top-30 and perhaps would love a shot at Devin Skatzka of Minnesota who has defeated Bastian three times this season. 

“Kimball is really in control of his destiny,” Williams said. “When he goes out there and wrestles the way he is capable of wrestling, where he’s moving and he’s getting to his ties and his set ups and committed to the shots, he’s really tough to beat. He could easily be in the top half on the podium. He’s shown it.”

Will Sumner 

Weight – 184 pounds

Overall record – 21-11

Big 12 Championships – 4th Place

NCAA seed – No. 20

Utah Valley’s Will Sumner is making his first trip to the NCAA Championships and doing so because he grew up, according to head coach Greg Williams. Photo by Brett Rojo/Big 12 Conference

First round opponent – No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi – Pitt

Outlook – This is a remarkable story. You want to talk about Rudy-like stories? Well, then you have to talk about Will Sumner’s journey to the NCAA Championships in his final year at UVU. Sumner has grown up, become a leader and made changes to be successful. That work ethic has paid off in big ways during the 2018-19 season. Sumner has had his best overall season since joining UVU wrestling and redshirting the 2014-15 season. His first full season, he wrestled to a 10-14 mark. His sophomore season he was 12-14. During his junior year, going in and out of the lineup with teammate Gary Jantzer, Sumner went 15-9.

And now he earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships by placing fourth at the Big 12 Conference Championships. Sumner has the ability to beat people. It is all about focus for the senior who will graduate with a degree in May.

“Two overwhelming feelings towards Will Sumner,” Williams said. “One is pride. Just super proud of him. Where he came from when he got here, scholastically and on the mat and in his personal life, he’s just become a man. And he was not that when he got here. He had a lot of obstacles to overcome. And the second emotion is just happy. I’m just happy for him that this click that he made … he turned it on this spring, this summer and is a completely different wrestler. Like, it was shocking to see how he was performing against top-ranked guys … Will is ready. He’s looked better in these last two weeks than he looked ever in his career.”

Tanner Orndorff

Weight – 197 pounds

Overall record – 18-12

Big 12 Championships – 6th Place

NCAA seed – No. 19

First round opponent – No. 14 Eric Schultz – Nebraska

Outlook – It has been an up and down season for the junior from Spokane.

Tanner Orndorff is going to the NCAA Championships for the third straight year and looking to make noise for UVU. Photo by Brett Rojo/Big 12 Conference

However, it is also the third time that Orndorff has been to the NCAA Championships and that experience could pay dividends. Perhaps the best part is that Orndorff wrestles a familiar foe in Schultz to open up the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Schultz beat Orndorff back on Nov. 10 in the Journeymen Duals. It is about staying in control for Orndorff, wrestling smart and keeping composure. Orndorff went 0-2 at the NCAA Championships a season ago but nearly knocked off No. 1 seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State before losing by a 12-8 decision.

“There were a couple of mistakes he was making at conference that he can’t make this week,” Williams said. “We’ve worked on those things and he’s diligent about working on what he needs to work on … Tanner is a leader on our team. He knows what he wants the team to be doing to get better. He knows what he wants from himself. He’s very low-maintenance and most of our discussions are about the team rather than him … he’s really a great leader and a great statesman for the program. As far as wrestling goes, you can’t count him out.”

Tate Orndorff

Weight – 285

Overall record – 24-7

Big 12 Championships – 3rd Place

NCAA seed – No. 15

First round opponent – No. 18 Joseph Goodhart – Drexel

Outlook – It has been a remarkable freshman campaign for the younger Orndorff.

Tate Orndorff is making his first appearance at the NCAA Championships. Photo by Brett Rojo/Big 12 Conference

And to follow in the footsteps of a UVU legend in Dustin Dennison says a lot. Orndorff has quietly put together a solid resume that has led to his No. 15 seed and his first trip to the NCAA Championships. In fact, combined with his brother and teammate Tanner, over the last three years, at least one Orndorff has competed at Nationals and that isn’t going to stop any time soon. Orndorff reeled off wins over two ranked opponents to finish third at the Big 12 Championships. What sets Orndorff apart is that Greg Williams says he is coachable. 

“Tate had a very good high school career and we felt fortunate that he decided to come here,” Williams said. “Coming off a mission he was trying to get the rust off. But two or three months in, we really started to see what he was about. And by the end of his redshirt year, we could see he was already someone that could go to Nationals and win some matches. He’s had a great year. He’s a special talent. And he’s just going to keep getting better.”

 

 

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