Orem • Earlier this season, when Utah Valley's wrestling team defeated Stanford in a dual meet, the result was met with a short burst of fanfare.
It was a big deal, unless one talked with the Wolverines. Beating a Pac-12 team was not such a hot deal. UVU which sends three wrestlers to the NCAA Championships starting Thursday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa hadn't lost to a Pac-12 team in two years.
That streak was eventually broken at No. 21-ranked Boise State, which wrestles in the Pac-12.
No, the Wolverines insist, their league, the Western Wrestling Conference, is better. UVU finished third, only nine points behind top-25 teams Wyoming and North Dakota State, and in front of Air Force and South Dakota State.
"It's fun to beat them," said UVU's Josh Wilson, who makes a return to the NCAA meet for the second consecutive season. "These are big name schools Arizona State, Stanford, Boise State. These are big-name schools. When you talk to people, 'Yeah, we beat Arizona State or Stanford.'"
The reaction isn't the same when it's Wyoming or North Dakota State.
"They're like, 'Oh,'" Wilson said. "But North Dakota State and Wyoming are a lot better than those [Pac-12] teams."
Four years ago, Utah Valley's program became eligible for the NCAA Championships. This is the fourth consecutive year that at least two Wolverine wrestlers have qualified. And in 2011, Ben Kjar became the school's first All-American, placing fourth at 125 pounds.
Starting Thursday, senior Wilson at 149 pounds he compiled a 2-2 record at nationals in 2012 freshman Jade Rauser, 125 pounds, and sophomore heavyweight Adam Fager will be their respective quests to become All-Americans. All are unseeded.
Wilson and Fager were named to the WWC All-Conference First Team, while five others were named to second and third teams. The conference is so deep at 125 that Rauser didn't even make the third team and yet still qualified for the national meet. In all, the WWC sent 16 automatic qualifiers and three of 44 national at-large selections.
"I've been proud of this team all year long," UVU coach Greg Williams said. "This time of year is always rough because you have some guys staying home that you think were good enough to go [to the NCAA Championships]. I'm proud of Josh, Adam and Jade for getting it done."
Now the real work begins.
NCAA Wrestling Championships
Thursday-Saturday, Des Moines, Iowa
Utah Valley wrestlers's opening matches
125 Pounds • Jade Rauser vs. No. 2 seed Jesse Delgado (Illinois)
149 pounds • Josh Wilson vs. Nick Lester (Oklahoma)
Hvy • Adam Fager vs. Matt Gibson (Iowa State)
Utahns of note
149 • Jason Chamberlain (Springville), Boise State, No. 2 seed
174 • Matt Brown (Cyprus), Penn State, No. 2 seed
184 • Ethen Lofthouse (Mountain Crest), Iowa, No. 12 seed