So, what is it you want for your kids out of sports in life? High caliber experiences that build character? Associations with coaches who are quality adults, who are examples of successful grown-ups? Chances to be part of teams that build unity and increase dedication, hardwork, selflessness? Applications to life away from sports? If your hopes are such, read on.
Casen Eldredge attends Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, currently finishing up in his junior year, where he is majoring in Business Management/Entrepreneurship.
Eldredge is also a member of the UVU wrestling team. UVU is the only college in Utah to field a wrestling team and the university is committed to building a quality program. Eldredge was part of the first recruiting class of head coach Greg Williams, who took over the fledgling program three years ago from Cole Sanderson, who started the program and left after three years.
This year marked many firsts for the Wolverine grapplers, qualifying three wrestlers for the NCAA wrestling tournament for the first time ever and recording duel victories over the eighth ranked Boise State Broncos and perennial conference champ Northern Iowa.
Eldredge, however, is not one of those three who qualified for nationals, nor did he win his matches against either Boise State or Northern Iowa. In fact, Eldredge ended the year losing 14 of his last 16 matches. So where’s the story, you might ask? Read on.
Eldredge entered the season coming off a sophomore year where he was 20-10, and according to the UVU official athletic site, “was named to the WWC All-Academic Team with a 3.45 GPA studying Business Management/Entrepreneurship ... posted an eight match win streak during the middle of the season ... went 3-0 at the Tracy Borah Duals on Jan. 24, 2009 ... recorded six victories by pinfall, five major decisions and one technical fall ... won the 184 lbs. division at the UVU Open on Jan. 10, 2009 going 3-0.”
Expectations were high and Eldredge was meeting them. He started strong, winning 12 of his first 14 matches, but then the injuries started coming. In early December, he broke his hand, followed soon after by a torn quadriceps muscle, pulled muscle in his back, and a bum knee, tearing ACL and PCL ligaments and his meniscus.
Amazingly, even though the losses started to pile up along with the injuries, Eldredge kept wrestling, and never missed a match. You see, when the TEAM is trying to win a duel, every weight counts and if a team has to forfeit a weight, those points are hard to make up. So Eldredge would wrestle, to avoid giving up forfeit points to opponents. And it isn’t easy even when you’re healthy.
Says Eldredge, “College wrestling is super demanding, physically and emotionally. Every match is like a state championship match.” And then you throw in school work and relationships, both of which Eldredge considered important (more on the relationship angle in a minute).
He humbly mentioned that the knee injuries didn’t “let me wrestle like I usually do.” Ya think? It all came to a head in a duel match against the aforementioned eighth ranked Boise State team.
Hoping to pull off their first ever victory over the Broncos as well as the first ever victory over a ranked opponent, Coach Williams asked for a little teamness from Eldredge. The Wolverines sported two wrestlers at 184 pounds, but none at 285, heavyweight, and to avoid the forfeit, Williams asked Eldredge to go up to 285.
Eldredge readily agreed and, without telling his mom, who was in the audience that night, walked out on the mat in front of 7,000 screaming fans in the last match of night, only needing to avoid getting pinned for his Wolverine team to upset the mighty Broncos.
Casen’s mom, Cyndi, couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “I didn’t know he was moving up to heavyweight”, and when he walked out on the mat, she feared for his life. “That (Boise State wrestler’s) arms were bigger than Casen’s legs,” she moaned. “I thought he would snap Casen in two! I just buried my head in my arms, I couldn’t watch.“
Giving up over 100 pounds to his opponent, and with the partisan crowd worked into a frenzy, Eldredge showed his dedication and selflessness. At one point during the match, he actually led 3-1, but the Boise guy used his weight advantage and in Mom’s words, “laid on him, not letting Casen even move.”
Eldredge, even though he succumbed 6-4, avoided the pin and provided the emotional victory to his team, 22-20, in what a Wolverine fan said was “the most exciting sports event I’ve ever been to.”
Eldredge finished the season at heavyweight, bulking up to around 200 pounds, but won only one match at that weight before losing two matches at the conference tournament, 5-1 and 1-0 to end his season 14-16. His goal was to qualify for nationals and finish in the top eight, but, he smiles, “there is always next year.”
He plans to use the off-season to recover from his injuries, with perhaps some knee surgery in there and most importantly, to get married, where his experience of sacrificing for the team will serve him well. Eldredge will marry Taren Smith of Bountiful in the middle of May, after school is out. Their lives will be hectic, however, as Smith is also a member of the UVU girls’ soccer team. “We see a lot of each other,” says Eldredge, “because of sports.”
“So what have you learned from all this?” I ask Eldredge. “Dedication, hardwork, selflessness, accomplishment, how to become men like our coach is always telling us, relating this to how to be successful outside of wrestling,” he readily answers.
Precisely what we had hoped, isn’t it?
The Monticello Track and Field team rose in the early morning hours after prom and drug themselves to Salina for the Matt Burr Inviational at North Sevier High School.
There were 16 schools represented from 3A down to 1A. Some highlights for the day include Devin Wright who kept his winning streak going in the Javelin with a throw of 174’, outdistancing Caden Anderson of Rich by five feet. That should be an interesting battle for those two come the middle of may in Provo.
Macee Nielson got back on track, lapping the field in the 3200m and finishing second in the 1600m.
Other outstanding performances include Loren Randall 3rd in the 800m and 6th in the 1600m. Brittany Keith finish 7th in the 400m and 4th in the 800m. Kayla McArthur was 4th in the 3200m and Abby Chadwick was 6th in the Javelin.
For the boys, David Boyle was 5th in the 800m and Dallin Duncan was 8th in high jump and 300m hurdles. The girls finished 6th and the boys 9th.