Seven BYU wrestlers qualified for the 2016 NCWA National Championships in Kissimmee, Florida, on March 10–12.
“I would put any of them up against anybody in the nation as far as their competitiveness and talent,” said BYU wrestling coach Craig Miner. “I think we have as much talent at BYU as anywhere in the country.”
The wrestlers earned their spots in nationals after great performances at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association’s West Coast Conference Championships in Tucson, Arizona, on Feb. 27.
BYU’s Tyler Carlyle (145-lb.) and Tyler Weiss (133-lb.) both won individual championships, and the team brought home the second-place trophy.
BYU fell to the University of Arizona by just half a point for the conference championship. BYU beat 11 other teams, including in-state rivals Utah State University, Dixie State University and Southern Utah University.
The team was happy to win a trophy, but Carlyle said the loss to Arizona was disappointing.
“It’s easy to look back over a whole tournament and say, ‘If this had gone differently or this had gone differently, then we would have won.’ I can’t believe that it came down to half a point, that it was that close. It’s kind of bittersweet,” Carlyle said.
However, the Cougars exceeded their own expectations despite the loss. Carlyle and Weiss said they expected three or four members of the team to qualify for nationals, not seven.
“Honestly, we thought we would qualify three or four of us to nationals, so to qualify seven was awesome,” Carlyle said.
Weiss said it was nice to qualify because the team is still fairly new in comparison to other teams.
“It was nice that our team for being so young did so well,” Weiss said. “We performed better than we probably should have for any other team.”
Carlyle has wrestled for 15 seasons, and said he doesn’t remember ever “not being on the mat” except for during his mission.
He said he started to lose weight “subconsciously” as if he was still training for competition when wrestling season came around while he was on his mission.
“My body just knew it was time to start shedding the fat,” Carlyle said.
Carlyle went into the conference tournament last year as the second seed, but then an injury stopped him from qualifying for nationals. He returned to the conference tournament this year with a goal to qualify.
“Once you qualify, your mindset changes,” Carlyle said. “As soon as I won the semis and knew I was at least going to nationals, then it was fun.”
Weiss started his wrestling career while in high school, and said he started “falling in love” with the sport.
“Wrestling is one sport where when you put in the work, you see the results. It just became a passion,” Weiss said.
He went into the conference tournament expecting to qualify for nationals, and once he qualified, he said the rest of the tournament was simply fun.
“It felt like a lot of hard work paid off,” Weiss said. “Winning it was more fun than anything.”
The other qualifiers are Joe Cooprider, Derek McClune, Blake Solomon, Ben Peterson and Andrew Kuhlenhoellter.
Six of the seven qualifying wrestlers have committed to going to the national championships in Florida. The decision to go wasn’t a cheap one since the team is not funded by BYU, and the trip to nationals comes only two weeks after the team’s trip to Arizona.
The team has a GoFundMe account for supporters to help cover the costs of the trip. Remaining costs will fall to each wrestler to cover. The team raised enough money to cover all the costs last year, but the financial burden is larger this year with six wrestlers going, according to Carlyle.
Carlyle and Weiss both believe the trip will be worth the sacrifice. They both expect to place in the top eight at nationals, earning All-American titles.
“I know I can go there and be competitive. I know I can All-American. But when you get a 64-man bracket in a national tournament, things have to line up in your favor,” Carlyle said. “I go in expecting to place and All-American, but I also know it’s going to be a fight.”