Kimball Bastian (left), Tate Orndorff (middle left), Demetrius Romero (middle right) and Tanner Orndorff (right) pose after the 2018 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday. Utah Valley had a program-record four grapplers earn podium finishes: Bastian placed eighth at 174, Orndorff took second at heavyweight, Romero placed third at 165 and Orndorff took eighth at 197.
The 22nd-ranked Utah Valley University wrestling team posted its highest Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finish in program history on Saturday in Las Vegas by placing eighth out of 43 teams behind a program-high four individual podium finishes.
Redshirt freshman Tate Orndorff led the way by placing second at heavyweight, while junior 165-pounder Demetrius Romero had a day to remember by earning a third-place finish after knocking off a trio of ranked foes during the tournament’s second day of competition. Junior 174-pounder Kimball Bastian and fellow junior 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff rounded out the group by each placing at the prestigious tournament for the second time in their respective careers after adding eighth-place finishes on Saturday.
With the eighth-place team finish (70 points), the 22nd-ranked Wolverines finished ahead of No. 25 Rutgers (66.5), No. 15 Purdue (65.5), No. 13 Virginia Tech (64.5), No. 14 North Carolina (64.5), No. 21 Wyoming (64.5), No. 23 Northwestern (62), No. 17 Illinois (53.5), No. 19 North Dakota State (45.5), No. 9 Cornell (40) and fellow Big 12 foes Oklahoma (39), Fresno State (29.5), Air Force (17.5) and Northern Colorado (7). Second-ranked Ohio State won the prestigious tournament with 148 points, while No. 6 Missouri took second (115.5) and No. 12 Nebraska place third (105.5).
“To finish in the top eight with three of our starters out of the lineup tells us that we’re going the right direction,” head UVU coach Greg Williams said. “We were really pleased with how the guys wrestled this weekend. We had several opportunities against tough opponents, and I’m thrilled with how we competed. The guys did a lot of good things, and I’m very proud that they truly showed toughness throughout the tournament. They also showed that we are able to compete against the top guys at the highest level. That’s where we want to be, and we are definitely headed in the right direction.”
After going a perfect 4-0 on Friday to earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinal bout, the sixth-seeded and 13th-ranked Tate Orndorff then became UVU’s second CKLV Invitational finalist in program history by earning an 8-2 decision over Ohio State’s Chase Singletary to advance to the championship match. Then in the heavyweight final, the Wolverine redshirt freshman matched up with top seed and second-ranked Gable Steveson of Minnesota. Despite a late surge, Steveson got the best of Tate Orndorff by pulling out a 12-4 contest to finish Orndorff’s inaugural CKLV Invite appearance with a 5-1 record and a runner-up finish.
After dropping to the wrestlebacks with a quarterfinal setback on Friday evening, the eighth-seeded and 13th-ranked Romero then ran the gantlet on Saturday by going a perfect 4-0 on the day to come all the way back to record a third-place finish at 165 pounds. The Wolverine junior started the day with a hard-earned 8-6 come-from-behind overtime victory over Oklahoma’s Jeremy Thomas to lock up a podium finish. Romero followed that up with the first of three victories over fellow ranked foes with a 6-3 decision over the No. 5 seed and 12th-ranked Joey Gunter of Illinois. He then followed with a medical forfeit win over the No. 3 seed and ninth-ranked Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa to advance on to the third-place bout. In a rematch from Friday’s quarterfinal, Romero then matched up with the top seed and fifth-ranked Logan Massa of Michigan. After falling by technical fall to Massa on Friday, Romero then bounced back with a 9-6 upset victory over the 2017 All-American to earn the third-place finish. The UVU 165-pounder went an impressive 7-1 over the two-day event on his way to placing third.
Bastian and Tanner Orndorff then each placed eighth after respectively recording 4-3 and 3-2 outings at the premier tournament. In his opening match on Saturday, the seventh-seeded and 18th-ranked Bastian then picked up a clutch third-period fall (5:10) over No. 19 Matt Finesilver of Duke to lock up a podium finish. The Wolverine 174-pounder then dropped his final two bouts to Navy Spencer Carey (13-3) and No. 20 Devin Skatzka of Minnesota (9-4) in the seventh-place bout to earn the eighth-place finish. Two-time NCAA qualifier and 22nd-ranked Tanner Orndorff then posted a 4-1 decision over North Dakota State’s Cordell Eaton on Saturday morning to lock up a podium finish. He then fell via fall to the No. 2 seed and eighth-ranked Nathan Traxler of Stanford (1:30) to enter the seventh-place match. Tanner Orndorff then took a medical forfeit in his final match against the No. 6 seed and 14th-ranked Tom Sleigh of Virginia Tech to finish eighth.
Senior 184-pounder Will Sumner also advanced to Saturday’s second day of competition, but he had his strong 2018 CKLV Invitational run come to close just one win shy of earning a podium finish after dropping a tightly contested 7-4 decision to the No. 3 seed and fifth-ranked Zack Zavatsky of Virginia Tech. Sumner finished his run with a 3-2 record after earning a trio of wins on Friday. The five Wolverines advancing to Saturday’s second day of competition at the premier tournament marked a program high for UVU.
“There were several stars on the team for us this weekend. Tate wrestled well all tournament long. Steveson is an extremely talented heavyweight and we learned so important things that will help Tate improve before he faces him again at the end of the month. Tate dictated a lot of his matches, and I’m really pleased with how he’s wrestling,” Williams added. “Demetrius’ last two wins were really big for him and showed some toughness on his part. He did a great job of making some adjustments and returning the favor to Massa of Michigan in the third-place match, and I was very proud of him for being able to finish third.
“Tanner and Kimball too had good tournaments. They didn’t finish up the way they would’ve liked, but they are doing some good things. I was also very impressed with Will Sumner’s outing this weekend as well. His two losses were to All-Americans, and he had opportunities to win those matches. He’s right there and should have a great chance to get to nationals and put himself in the mix to get on the podium.”
Five other Wolverines competed at the tournament and had their 2018 CKLV Invitational runs come to a close during the opening session on Friday. Eighth-ranked and sixth-seeded Matt Findlay went 1-0 before sustaining an injury and having to withdraw from the tournament, while Josh Jensen (125), Mitch Brown (133), Matthew Ontiveros (149) all compiled 1-2 outings, and Spencer Heywood (157) finished with a 0-2 showing.
Tate Orndorff’s second-place finish marked UVU’s second-best in program history at the renowned tournament. A season ago, Taylor LaMont — who is sidelined in 2018-19 with an injury — became the program’s first CKLV Invitational champion by going a perfect 6-0 at 125 pounds.
The 22nd-ranked Wolverines (5-2, 0-0 Big 12) will now be off until late December when they will return to dual action at the South Beach Duals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, UVU will face No. 7 NC State, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 15 Purdue and Virginia on Dec. 29-30. Utah Valley’s first home match will come on Jan. 18, against both Fresno State and Western Wyoming.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.