Utah Valley coach Williams to retire after 2023-24 season
By Utah Valley Sports Information
OREM, Utah -- Utah Valley University head wrestling coach Greg Williams has announced that he will retire following the upcoming 2023-24 campaign, his 18th season leading the program.
"Working at UVU has been a wonderful experience for me and my family. We are grateful for the opportunities provided at this progressive institution," remarked Williams. "It has been an amazing experience working with the outstanding student-athletes that have come through the program. I also am very appreciative of the current coaching staff (Ethen Lofthouse and Erkin Tadzhimetov). Working with these two men, whose commitment, dedication and wrestling knowledge would be hard to match, have truly been a blessing. I want to thank President Tuminez, Dr. Sumsion, and all the other athletic administration and staff that have been so supportive of this program."
Only the second coach in the program's 20-year history, Williams has led the Wolverines to over 100 dual victories and five NCAA All-America honors. He took over the program in May of 2006 with three years remaining in the school's transition from junior college to D1 status. He coached through a stint in the Western Wrestling Conference (WWC) before leading the program through its transition to the Big 12 Conference.
"I am deeply grateful to Coach Williams for nearly two decades of building our program and mentoring our outstanding wrestlers. He leaves behind a major legacy," said UVU President Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez. "Personally, it has been a delight for me to support him and the entire team."
"Greg Williams has poured his heart and soul into this program and we're grateful and appreciative of the mark he and his family will have left on Utah Valley University wrestling," said UVU Athletic Director Dr. Jared Sumsion. "His dedication to developing these young men as student-athletes and for preparing them for life after wrestling is extraordinary. I know he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Kristin, and their daughters' families and grandchildren, and we wish them the best in retirement. The Williams family will forever be a part of Utah Valley wrestling."
During the 14 years of the Wolverine's post-season eligibility, Williams coached the first five All-Americans in program history, including all-time wins leader Ben Kjar, who became the first to achieve the feat when he reached the semifinals and placed fourth at the NCAA Championships in 2011. Jade Rauser (2016), Tate Orndorff (2020), Taylor LaMont (2021), and Demetrius Romero (2021) also earned All-America status under Williams' tutelage. In 2021, LaMont and Romero became the first multiple semifinalists and All-Americans in the same season in program history.
In all, 45 NCAA qualifiers have come out of the program in the 14 years of post-season Williams has coached. The first three came in the very first year of post-season eligibility in 2010 as Kjar, Flint Ray and Brad Darrington all earned berths and won matches at the NCAA Championships. Williams has also coached three four-time NCAA qualifiers in Rauser, LaMont and Romero.
In the 2015-16 season, Williams led the Wolverines into a new era as the program joined the Big 12 Conference, consistently the second toughest conference in the country (usually trailing only the Big 10 in NCAA qualifiers and All-Americans each year). During the first year in its new conference, UVU knocked off No. 18 Oregon State, earning them the program's first-ever votes in the top 25 polls.
During the Big 12 era, Williams and his staff coached Romero to two Big 12 titles. In 2021, the year of Romero's second title, UVU had multiple finalists for the first time the same year at the Big 12 Championships when LaMont also made it to the championship bout. In total, UVU has had eight conference champions, the two Romero won at the Big 12's and Ray (2x), Josh Wilson, Adam Fager, Avery Garner and Rauser all in the WWC.
With a philosophy to compete against the top teams every year, to provide the wrestlers more opportunities to prepare for post-season, the program consistently faced a tough schedule under Williams' leadership. In the 14 years of post season eligibility, the program wrestled 59 ranked teams. Seven times the Wolverines upset top ranked teams, with one top 10 win over No. 8 Boise State, three top 15 wins, and four top 20 wins.
The success against ranked teams stood out during the 2018-19 season. After losing a close 19-18 match to No. 12 Nebraska in its opening weekend, UVU defeated No. 15 Big 10 foe Rutgers later that day, winning seven of the 10 matches for a 24-14 win. The team later went on to defeat another Big 10 opponent, No. 13 Purdue, also winning seven of 10 matches for a 28-11 win. In all, the Wolverines wrestled 10 ranked teams that year, including five Big 10 programs and ACC powerhouse NC State. Williams' strategy seemed to pay off that year as the program earned its first top 25 ranking, reaching as high as No. 21 during the season. They also set a program record with six NCAA qualifiers and finished with a school best 6th place finish at the Big 12 Championships.
"Some highlights for me when I look back at my time here will be how our student-athletes' consistently represented our school, our program and themselves with integrity, their ability to respond to tough schedules and obstacles throughout each season to be prepared for post-season, our academic successes and our mentor program," Williams stated.
Academically, Williams' teams have consistently excelled among the best in the country. His wrestlers have earned 119 Academic All-Conference awards overall, with 97 earned from the Big 12, and 52 Commissioner's Honor Roll recognitions. His teams have earned 14 National Wrestling Coaches Association Team Academic Awards including nine top 10 and five top six recognitions. Individually, Williams' student-athletes have earned 43 NWCA Scholar All-America honors including one Elite 90 recipient (top GPA of all NCAA qualifiers) when Matt Findlay was awarded the honor in 2019.
In 2016, with the help of a close friend of the program, Williams helped establish the UVU Wrestling Mentor program. Top level professionals were recruited from various career fields to mentor and provide opportunities to all the wrestlers going out in similar careers. Mentors gave talks to the team, in addition to setting up job shadowing, networking, internships and job interviews for their wrestler. The mentor program has been instrumental in providing career opportunities for dozens of the wrestling program's student-athletes.
"We have never looked at our student-athletes as just wrestlers," Williams said. "Our goal has always been to develop these young men in all areas of their lives. I will be moving on with confidence that the program will continue to grow and reach new heights. It will be my plan, along with my family, to continue to support UVU in general and specifically the wrestling program in any way that we can. We look forward to the future successes of both".