USA Wrestling has selected Utah Valley University as a Regional Olympic Training Center site for the sport of wrestling. The UVU Wrestling Room—that is located on the campus of Utah Valley University in Orem—will house the site that will mark the first and only wrestling Regional Training Center in Utah.
The selection will now allow Olympic hopefuls of all ages to train for international competitions at UVU. It will also allow current Utah Valley student-athletes the opportunity to train for the Olympics while they are concurrently pursuing their education and striving to achieve their collegiate wrestling goals.
"We are very excited to have the Regional Training Center here at UVU. This is a very important opportunity for our wrestling program and for our future Olympic hopefuls currently competing at all age levels in Utah," said head UVU wrestling coach Greg Williams. "As we continue to receive more funding and donations from our wrestling community to support our vision, we can bring in top international talent to train on a daily basis with our college and youth wrestlers."
The Utah Valley Regional Training Center will mark one of 50 wrestling RTC's that are located around the country but just one of nine that are housed in the Western U.S. Four of those Western RTC's reside in California (Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield, Fresno State and Stanford), while two more are held in Colorado (Air Force and Northern Colorado) and one in both Arizona (Arizona State) and Wyoming (University of Wyoming). One distinction about the Utah Valley RTC, however, will be that it will mark just one of two Regional Training Center sites across the nation that will specialize in Greco-Roman wrestling.
"We currently have four wrestlers on our roster that have competed on World Teams in Greco, including Taylor LaMont, who is a World Bronze medalist and a five-time World Teams member. We also have more guys with great Greco experience coming in," said Williams. "We will be focusing on both freestyle and Greco, but we certainly have the potential to train many of our UVU wrestlers to National and eventually World and Olympic titles and medals. We see this as a great opportunity to recruit wrestlers with top-tier collegiate talent who also have a desire to continue to develop their international training in Greco."
Williams, along with his fellow assistant coaches Erkin Tadzhimetov, Ethen Lofthouse and Luke Lofthouse will all coach for Utah Valley RTC, as will local club coach Craig LaMont, former Wolverine standout and 2016 All-American Jade Rauser, and the newly appointed Utah Valley RTC head coach Will Rowe. Rowe, who was trained by Olympic Champion Kenny Monday in his youth, was a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Oklahoma Sooners that has previously coached at both OU and Duke.
"For a brand new Regional Training Center, we have assembled one of the best coaching teams in the country. Especially in regards to specializing in Greco-Roman wrestling," Craig LaMont said. "I am not only a coach, but also a father, and I am very excited about these coaches. A place to train for the Olympics is only as good as what the athletes will be learning from the coaches."
To be recognized as a Regional Training Center by USA Wrestling, a club must be a chartered club with USA Wrestling, have use of a facility to use for wrestling training year-round, have a minimum of four established national team contenders who recognize the club as their primary training site and have a minimum of at least one active wrestling coach on staff that is a USAW Bronze Certified Coach.
Since hosting the Winter Olympics in 2002, the state of Utah has widely been known as a place for Olympic hopefuls from all around the country to come and train to achieve their Olympic goals. And now the sport of wrestling can be added to the list with the Utah Valley Regional Training Center.
"When the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Committee approved universities to apply and become Regional Training Centers, the big wrestling powers immediately applied and have now been gaining an even stronger stranglehold on the recruiting process. What is brilliant about UVU's designation is that we will be the only Division I program specializing in Greco-Roman," Craig LaMont said. "Each year there are six to 10 blue-chip NCAA recruits that love Greco-Roman but are forced to give up their Olympic dreams in order to wrestling in college. Those that refuse to give up those dreams switch their emphasis to freestyle so they can train in these Regional Training Centers while competing in college. Now all those athletes have a choice, and we believe UVU will be that choice."
The Utah Valley wrestling team is coming off an impressive performance at University Nationals in early June. A total of eight Wolverines placed at the event, including a pair of second-place finishes from brothers Grant LaMont and Taylor LaMont in freestyle. Grant LaMont and fellow redshirt freshman Kimball Bastian also boasted a pair of podium finishes at the national tournament, as Grant LaMont placed fifth in Greco and Bastian finished fourth in Greco and fifth in freestyle.
A trio of current Wolverines also all won silver medals recently while wrestling in a freestyle competition at the City of Sassari International Tournament. The LaMont brothers, as well as teammate Matt Findlay, all placed second in Senior Freestyle in the tournament, while Taylor LaMont also brought home a gold medal after winning the UWW Junior Greco-Roman division at the event as well.
Taylor LaMont, who wrestled his way to a 20-5 record while competing unattached as a true freshman this past season, is a five-time World Team member and a 2016 Junior World Bronze medalist. His brother Grant, as well as fellow rising UVU sophomore Bastian and incoming freshmen Roy Nash and Brooks Robinson, are all past World Team members as well and will look to capitalize on having the Utah Valley RTC.
"When I was coming out of high school and deciding which college I wanted to wrestle at, there were a lot of things that factored into my decision. One of the main ones was whether or not the university I chose would allow me to get the necessary training in Greco-Roman so I could work toward my goal of becoming an Olympic Champion," UVU 125-pounder Taylor LaMont said. "Getting this RTC program up and running is a huge step because it not only allows me and the rest of my teammates to train in the Olympic styles during the summer but all year long.
"We will now have the option to go to a separate RTC practice that focuses strictly on the Olympic styles (Greco-Roman and freestyle) during the college season. This is huge, because now we don't have to get behind the rest of the world and try to play catch-up in the short summer months before the World Team Trials and World Championships. Instead, I can train Greco multiple times a week while at the same time training for the collegiate season. Overall, this allows guys like me who want to win both NCAA titles and World/Olympic titles. I hope other high school kids around the country with goals similar to mine can realize that Utah Valley can provide that for them. Utah Valley's RTC program can now start helping athletes make World and Olympic Teams to represent the red, white and blue."
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.