Iowa Hawkeyes to wrestle UVU Wolverines at UHS
Uintah High School wrestling alumni Phillip Keddy, who wrestles for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes as an All-American, will be returning to Vernal with his Hawkeyes to take on the UVU Wolverines on Feb. 6 at the Uintah High School gymnasium. (Submitted Photo)
Uintah High School wrestling head coach Gregg Stensgard holds an Iowa Hawkeyes cap next to U.H.S. Wrestling alumni Phillip Keddy, who now wrestles as a two-time All-American for the Hawkeyes. Keddy still holds several UHS. Records from his time in Stensgard?s program.
slideshow By Gary Lee Parker
Express Sports Editor
The number one ranked University of Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team is heading to Vernal?s Uintah High School on Feb. 6 to take on the Utah Valley University Wolverines in a match-up Uintah?s head coach describes as ?the biggest sporting event to ever come to Vernal.
?Anyone who knows anything about wrestling knows the Iowa mystique,? said Stensgard, of the Iowa winning streak that began with Hawkeye head coach Dan Gable?s champion-making leadership in 1972. The Hawkeyes have won nearly two dozen national championships since that winning season, dominating the world of college wrestling for over 35 years.
The Hawkeyes are coming to Vernal during a winning streak that?s lasted for 54 straight duals, winning the last two NCAA Division 1 championships.
?The program has just been extremely dominant over the last 30 to 40 years,? said Stensgard. ?Having a [wrestling] program of this magnitude coming to Vernal just seems like something that doesn?t happen.?
But it is happening, thanks in part to former Stensgard and UHS wrestler Phillip Keddy, a two time state champion and one time runner up, with several records at UHS, including most wins in a career and most takedowns in a career. Keddy, now a star wrestler for the Iowa Hawkeyes, has been an All-American wrestler for two years in a row, placing 6th, then 4th, in the nation. Ranked number one in the nation early in the current season, Keddy?s ranking dropped after an early season injury kept him off the mat in recovery. But Iowa coaching staff say Keddy?s back on top, and recent dominating wins on the mat seem to bear this out.
Keddy is one of four All-American wrestlers to come through the UHS wrestling program under coach Stensgard?s leadership. (The other three are Ryan Lewis, a three time NCAA All-American; Pat Sharp, a Junior College All-American and NCAA All-American; and Trevor Murray, a two time Junior College All-American.)
And he seems excited to return to the mats on his old turf in Vernal. ?It?s just a great opportunity to come home and wrestle in front of my family and my hometown fans,? said Keddy of the event. ?It will be good to come back and wrestle where it all started.?
?UVU is another good opportunity to get out on the mat and compete and showcase our team and what we?re about,? he added.
?I can?t rank them in order, but Keddy is one of the best wrestlers to ever go through the program at Uintah High School,? said Stensgard of his former student. ?To become an All-American in college you have to be really dedicated, and very good, and Keddy is all of that.?
Another notable Utah wrestler in the Hawkeye line-up, Luke Loufthouse formerly wrestled for Mountain Crest High School, and is expected to perform strongly at the dual.
The team has seven returning All-Americans wrestling in the dual.
?Almost everyone on [the Hawkeyes?] team is ranked nationally, and the team is loaded with talent,? said Stensgard, adding, ?Obviously.?
Of course, it helps to be led by an all-star coaching staff made up of several past Olympic and national champions. In fact, head coach Brands is an Olympic champion and a world champion who has won three NCAA national championships.
One of the most notable names wrestling at the event is Bret Metcalf, a two time NCAA finalist, national champion, and Hodge trophy winner (the Heisman trophy of wrestling), who is currently undefeated in the season, and who leads the team in pins.
But don?t count Utah Valley out just yet. They stand to gain important experience, as well as attention as a serious program, by taking on such a dominant team. UVU is a relatively new program, and still mostly unknown in wrestling nationally. Going head to head against the Hawkeyes should help UVU recruit stronger talent, and elevate the team?s status as a serious program with a future as a contender.
?It?s a big showcase,? said Stensgard. ?Anyone who follows the Hawkeyes ? and there are a lot of Hawkeyes fans ? will be tuned in to follow these duals on radio stations across the nation. So this will be good PR for UVU, even if they don?t win a single match.?
?You can?t be the best, unless you compete with the best,? he adds.
Stensgard said fans should watch for the match between UVU?s Ben Kjar, a junior currently ranked 12th in the nation, and Iowa?s Matt McDonough, ranked 4th in the nation as a true freshman. This match-up is expected to be UVU?s strongest chance, and should throw sparks for wrestling fans.
Ultimately, Stensgard is just proud of his Uintah High School program, citing the high number of Uintah wrestlers who go on to wrestle at the college level.
?I don?t think that there?s another school in Utah who has sent more kids into the college program than us,? he said. ?We have a program that gives kids an opportunity to move into college with scholarships, and to have their way paid.?
Keddy complimented the Uintah High School program as well. ?It was a huge advantage just because of the philosophies and beliefs I was taught at UHS,? he said. ?Just the work ethic and the attitude that if you want something you work hard to get it; that really served me well and translated well to college.?
Stensgard looks to the Iowa Dual as an opportunity to infuse the UHS program with new enthusiasm. ?We?re excited here at UHS, and we?re hoping that this event will energize our program and get people more excited about wrestling,? he said.
?The energy that?s going to be in that room...well, it should just be crazy. It?ll be like watching Michael Jordan in college. I can?t wait. I?ve seen a lot of wrestling in my day, but to get to see this in my own gym...? then he trails off.
?I can?t wait,? he says finally.
Tickets are available by calling 781-3110 ext. 2611, and may be purchased for $10 in advance. The event is expected to sell out rapidly. The dual will be held on Feb. 6 in the Uintah High School gymnasium in Vernal, Utah. Doors will open at 5:00 p.m., and wrestling will begin at 6:00 p.m.