Four Utah Valley University wrestlers have advanced to Sunday's second day of competition at the 2018 Big 12 Wrestling Championship and secured themselves a top-six podium finish at the two-day conference tournament.
Taylor LaMont (125 pounds), Demetrius Romero (165), Kimball Bastian (174) and Dustin Dennison (285) have advanced and will open competition in Sunday's third session in the consolation semifinals. They will not only look to place highly tournament but also secure a spot at the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
"We are proud of how our guys wrestled today. They put it out there as they have all season against some of the best competition in the country," said head UVU coach Greg Williams. "This is a special group of young men. With that said, we had some guys fall short of their goals and that's obviously disappointing. We have four guys now battling for an opportunity to go to nationals and we will go to work on Sunday to try and get that done."
After defeating the No. 10 seed from Fresno State Sean Williams, 10-4, in the quarterfinals earlier in the day, the second-seeded LaMont matched up with former NCAA finalist and No. 3 seed Zeke Moisey of West Virginia in the semis. After defeating Moisey twice earlier in the season, Moisey got some revenge on LaMont on Saturday evening by holding on late to defeat the Wolverine redshirt freshman by a score of 8-5. Moisey jumped out to an early lead, but LaMont battled back with a pair of escapes and a takedown to pull within a point at 5-4 in the second period. The 14th-ranked Moisey later responded with a reversal and an additional riding time point to defeat LaMont by a score of 8-5.
LaMont, who wrestled his way to a 1-1 record on the day, now heads to the consolation semis and will face the No. 5 seed Connor Brown of South Dakota State on Sunday. With seven auto qualifiers to nationals in his weight class, LaMont has not only secured himself a top-six finish at the Big 12's but also a berth in the NCAA Championships.
The third-seeded Romero too advanced to the semifinals on Saturday evening after picking up a hard-fought 7-5 decision over the No. 6 seed from Oklahoma Dewaylon Barnes in the quarters earlier in the day. The 16th-ranked Romero then matched up with the No. 2 seed and 2017 All-American Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State in the semis. Trailing 4-1 in the opening period, the eighth-ranked Rogers managed to flip Romero on his back and the official whistled for the quick fall (2:21) to send Romero to the consolation semifinals.
Romero, who went 1-1 on the day, will now face the No. 5 seed Keilan Torres in the consolation semis on Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Dennison also made it to the semifinals after beating the No. 5 seed from North Dakota State Dylan Stibral by major decision in the quarters. The 27th-ranked and 2017 NCAA qualifier Dennison then matched up with the No. 1 seed and 11th-ranked Derek White of Oklahoma State in the semis. White had Dennison's number in the contest, however, by defeating the Wolverine heavyweight by a score of 8-1.
Dennison, who also posted a 1-1 record on the day, opens Sunday's third session against the No. 7 seed from Northern Iowa Carter Isley in the consolation semifinals.
Bastian, who was the lone grappler in the group to not receive a first-round bye, wrestled his way to a 3-1 record on Saturday to advance to Sunday's third session. After beating No. 12 seed Danny Bush of Iowa State, 13-2, the fifth-seeded Bastian got pinned by the No. 3 seed and 13th-ranked Jacobe Smith from Oklahoma State in the third period in the quarterfinals to drop to the wrestlebacks. Bastian didn't disappoint in the consolation rounds on Saturday evening, though, by beating No. 11 seed Dominic Kincaid of Fresno State, 4-2, and No. 9 seed Dylan Urbach of North Dakota State, 7-1, to remain alive in the tournament and advance to the consolation semis.
After going an impressive 3-1 on the day, Bastian will now match up with the No. 2 seed and 10th-ranked Yoanse Mejias of Oklahoma in the consolation semifinals. The contest will mark a rematch between the two, as Bastian previously knocked Mejias off in early February by a score of 2-1.
Six other Wolverines too took part in the tournament on Saturday, and all six had their 2018 runs come to the close during Saturday's second session. Durbin Lloren (133), Matt Findlay (141) and Tanner Orndorff (197) led the way by each going 2-2, while Matthew Ontiveros (149) and Gary Jantzer (184) went 1-2 and Raider Lofthouse (157) finished with a 0-2 showing.
As a team, Utah Valley currently sits in eighth place out of 12 teams with 35.5 points. Five-time defending conference champion Oklahoma State leads the field with 106.5 points, while Northern Iowa is in second with 78, South Dakota State third (71.5), Wyoming fourth (59), North Dakota State fifth (49.5), West Virginia sixth (46.5) and Oklahoma seventh (45.5). Iowa State is right behind UVU in ninth (34), while Northern Colorado is 10th (27), Fresno State 11th (24.5) and Air Force 12th (20.5).
The 2018 Big 12 Championship continues on Sunday. The tournament's third session begins at 11 a.m. MT, and will be streamed live on FloWrestling. The championship finals will then take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., and will be televised live on AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.