Five Utah Valley University grapplers secured a medal finish at the 2016 Big 12 Championships by advancing to Sunday's consolation semifinal round. Seniors Chasen Tolbert (125 pounds), Jade Rauser (133), Ross Taylor (174) and Derek Thomas (197), as well as sophomore Dustin Dennison (285) will all finish no lower than sixth at their first trip to the Big 12's after each going 1-1 on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
Tolbert, Rauser and Dennison led the way by reaching the championship semifinals, while Taylor and Thomas had to come back through the wrestlebacks.
"I'm happy for our four seniors and Dustin. They have given themselves a chance to earn a spot on Sunday," head coach Greg Williams said. "There's more work to be done. This is a great tournament and it's going to get better and more competitive in the next few years."
After earning a win by injury default over the three seed from West Virginia Zeke Moisey earlier in the day, Tolbert dropped a 6-2 decision to the two seed and sixth-ranked Eddie Klimara of Oklahoma State in the semis. Trailing 6-2 entering the final stanza, Tolbert looked for a tilt the entire period and finally looked to have secured some back points with the clock winding down, but no points were awarded by the official as time expired. The officials then went to review the final action, but due to technical difficulties it could not be reviewed as Klimara managed to hang on to the victory.
With the loss, Tolbert now enters Sunday morning's consolation semifinal contest against the four seed Drew Templeman from Wyoming. The winner of that bout will then wrestle for third while the loser will compete for fifth.
After picking up a dominant 7-0 shutout victory over the five seed from South Dakota State Brance Simms in the quarters, Rauser too dropped his semifinal bout to the top seed and defending National Champion Cody Brewer of Oklahoma, 20-2. The three-time UVU NCAA qualifier managed to score just two escape points on Brewer in the contest, as Brewer went on to win the bout by technical fall.
With a 1-1 record on Saturday, Rauser now turns his attention to a familiar foe in the three seed from Air Force Josh Martinez in the consolation semifinals on Sunday morning.
Dennison entered Saturday evening's semifinal contest against the top seed and fifth-ranked Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State after picking up a 6-4 decision over the four seed from North Dakota State Ben Tynan earlier in the day. In a hard-fought semifinal contest, the UVU redshirt sophomore ended up falling to the 2014 All-American Marsden of OK State by a score of 6-2.
Dennison now heads to the consolation semis to take on the six seed from Iowa State Joe Scanlan on Sunday.
After dropping their respective championship quarterfinal matches during Saturday's opening session, Taylor and Thomas bounced back by winning their final matches of Saturday to advance to Sunday's third session. The fifth-seeded Taylor took care of business against his former teammate and nine seed from North Dakota State Blake Thompson by a score of 9-2, while No. 6 Thomas kept his 2016 NCAA Championship hopes alive by pulling out a tightly contested 3-2 decision over No. 8 Brad Johnson of Oklahoma.
After each going 1-1 on Saturday, Taylor now faces the two seed from Oklahoma Matt Reed in Sunday's consolation semis, while Thomas takes on No. 9 Pat Downey of Iowa State.
Five other Wolverines competed at the 2016 Big 12 Championship on Saturday but had their inaugural runs cut short, as No. 8 Trevor Willson (149) and No. 8 Raider Lofthouse (157) each went 1-2, while No. 5 Jarod Maynes (141), No. 10 Brayden Humpherys (165) and No. 9 Will Sumner (184) finished their inaugural tournament runs with 0-2 showings.
The Big 12 Championship continues on Sunday with the third session/medal rounds set for 8 a.m. MT, while the finals follow at noon MT. Sunday's final session will be televised live on Root Sports Rocky Mountain.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.