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Romero Leads Utah Valley's Culture Change

2021 All-American Demetrius Romero (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

"Sports is what we do. Our parents taught us to be champions. They taught us to be winners. We don't make excuses. If you lose, you lose, but figure it out," said Demetrius Romero, a redshirt senior at Utah Valley University. Demetrius, the oldest boy in a family of nine brothers and sisters, was born just outside of Boise, Idaho, where he attended Mountain View High School. As the oldest boy in the family, Demetrius knew that his success would soon be met, or surpassed, by a younger sibling looking to take the top spot. With a champions-like mentality, growing up in the Romero household was always grounds for competition.

In his youth, Demetrius played football, basketball, and ran track, alongside his twin brothers Andre and Adrian; both of whom are currently on the track and field team at Utah Valley University. Right before freshman year, Demetrius moved to a new town, which meant being the "new kid" at his high school. Being familiar with football, he joined the football team and made plenty of friends; some of which were on the wrestling team and spotted his double leg takedown during multiple football games. He tried out for the wrestling team, and the rest is history.

As a senior, Demetrius captured the 152-pound Idaho State Championship title, while wrestling for Head Coach Kevin Wood. He earned first-team all-state and first-team All-Southern Idaho Conference accolades during his senior campaign, posting a 47-3 record. Demetrius said, "Wrestling was the first sport I did where I didn't take to it right away. It was the one sport that I had to really work to get good at it. That's ultimately why I chose to wrestle in college, instead of playing football. I like to be the guy that's in control. If I win, it's because of me. If I lose, it's because of me."

When it came time to make a college decision, Demetrius targeted four schools: Utah Valley University, Boise State, The University of North Carolina, and Oregon State. "In the end, it came down to Boise State and Utah Valley University. A big part of why I didn't come to Utah Valley originally was to support my family, and my younger brothers who were still in high school," Demetrius stated. Thus, Demetrius attended Boise State from 2015-2017, being forced to transfer when he learned that the wrestling program was being cut. Throughout his time at Boise State, Demetrius heard rumors of the program being in jeopardy, but it wasn't until he was in the car with his father, where he learned that his college had finalized the long-awaited decision. Demetrius said, "I heard it on the radio (KTIK: The Ticket) before we were even told by our athletic department; before our coaches even had the opportunity to tell us. It wasn't the way I wanted to find out, but at the time, there was nothing I could do."

With Boise State in his rearview mirror, it was time to get back to the drawing board and set his sights on a new wrestling program. This time around, Demetrius was looking for a program that would enable him to become the best version of himself, on and off the mat. Time after time, Utah Valley University was at the top of Demetrius' list. After speaking with Utah Valley University's Head Coach, Greg Williams, and expressing his desire to compete at a higher level, Demetrius made the decision to commit to Utah Valley University. "I called Utah Valley and talked with Coach Williams. He already knew that my brothers were out there, and I would be attending school there anyway. He also knew that I liked Associate Head Coach Ethen Lofthouse a lot, and I had an unbreakable bond with him. I reassured both Coach Williams and Coach Lofthouse that even if I went on recruiting trips, I would still be attending Utah Valley University," Demetrius said.

When asked about Demetrius' recruiting process, Coach Williams said, "We were watching him early on in high school. Ethen and I went to the Tournament of Champions, and we watched Demetrius there. Ethen noticed him, and we saw some things about him that we really liked. After Boise State dropped their program, they allowed their team the chance to transfer. As soon as Boise State announced they dropped their program, I received a text from Demetrius' father asking if we were still interested. So, transfer portal? Not really. They dropped the program, so it was an open season. The transfer portal is not the main source of information. I was first notified because we recruited him previously, and his dad wanted to know if we were still interested in him. We were."

Coach Williams went on to say, "And, not to mention, Ethen has always been Demetrius' guy. That trust was there, and the bond that they have on the mat is special." When asked about that special bond, Demetrius said, "Coach Lofthouse has always been an influential person throughout my wrestling career. He has a lot of qualities that my high school coach, Kevin Wood, had. It drew me in. He had given me a lot of guidance. And now, I've connected with him, not only on an athlete-coach level or wrestling level, but as a human being."

A few months later, Demetrius was on campus, and ready to set his sights on becoming the best version of himself, on and off the mat. Luckily for him, throughout his first few years at Utah Valley University, Demetrius and his teammates had the opportunity to play a crucial role in a "renovation" plan, devised by Coach Williams and his coaching staff. After the coaches and wrestlers reflected upon previous seasons, they agreed that a renovation plan was just what they needed. One team. One goal. 100% buy-in. Coach Williams stated, "We needed a culture change. We needed everyone on the team to buy-in."

Utah Valley head coach Greg Williams (right) (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

First, Coach Williams and his staff displayed four words in their facility: Goals. Attitude. Ownership. And, Grit. These four words would become the cornerstone to Utah Valley University's wrestling program. Coach Williams summarized the following, "Goals are the "why" behind every student-athlete that walks into the wrestling room. Why do you want to be a wrestler? Why do you want to be a champion? Why? Attitude encompasses a wrestler's eating habits, sleeping habits, utilizing a journal to write down one's goals, being efficient in practice, being efficient in the classroom, being efficient in your personal life, etc. Attitude is reflected in each and every wrestler's behavior throughout daily tasks, and their ability to effectively complete them. Ownership is buying into and realizing that 90% of one's success is on them, and 10% is due to family, friends, and surroundings. When you take ownership of something, you ask yourself, "Who is the first person that I should be looking at?" Myself. Wrestlers must self-evaluate on a consistent basis to ensure their goals are being met. When we decide to self-evaluate, we stop blaming. We stop whining. If what you're doing at that point is trying to solve the problem, you're probably on the right track. If what you're doing is not going to solve the problem, you're expending energy in the wrong places. Finally, Grit. If you want to know what grit looks like, don't look any further than this right here [Demetrius]."

Although Demetrius, and his teammates, played a crucial role in the wrestling program's new renovation plan, there wasn't always 100% buy-in. Over time, and through a lot of trial and error, Demetrius understood the importance of this culture change, and was willing to look within to be the best leader for his team that he could be. Coach Williams stated, "Demetrius still struggled at first to understand the complete role he could play in the growth of the program. The new words and theme helped with unity, and Demetrius, by sincerely trying to implement these ideas into his own goals and daily process. He has grown more this past year as a leader than we could have ever hoped for."

Second, Coach Williams and his staff instilled a theme that would course through every wrestler's veins. "Next Point." Coach Williams explained, ""Next Point" is your next opportunity. Your next opportunity to grow, or do better, or be better. I want my wrestlers to think, "If I'm losing 9-1 and I feel like the match is out of my hands, and I don't have anything to hold on to, I have to make the most of every single moment. I have to score. I have to create the next opportunity. I have to create the next point, regardless of my position on the mat." This applies to school. This applies to our personal life. I want my wrestlers to think, "It's my chance to create the next opportunity." Luckily, Demetrius is an opportunity guy.

Fortunately, Demetrius made the most of his "next point" and became an All-American for Utah Valley University after placing sixth at 174 pounds at the 2021 NCAA Championships. Prior to that, he won his second Big 12 title, going 4-0 at the Big 12 Championships. Demetrius earned both NWCA Scholar All-American and First Team Academic All-Big 12 honors. In addition, Demetrius earned the highest national seed in Utah Valley University's wrestling program history, as he entered the NCAA Championships in 2021 as the No. 2 seed in his weight class. Demetrius capitalized on and bought into Coach Williams' program renovation.

At the NCAA Championship tournament, Coach Williams was impressed by Demetrius, and his counterpart, Taylor Lamont, Utah Valley University's 125-pounder after becoming All-Americans for the first time, following their quarterfinal bouts. Coach Williams said, "It was the first time Demetrius and Taylor were All-Americans. They walked off the mat the exact same way that they normally walk off the mat, because it wasn't about that match. If they had won nationals, it would have been different because that was the end goal. They didn't reach that end goal. But in the moment, there was no overexcitement. They both acknowledged their families in the stands, paying tribute to the roles both of their families played in their success and went back into the locker room the same way they always do. That's exactly where we wanted their mindset to be. It's one thing to say that you believe in our programs' culture change, but in that type of a moment, you can't fake that they truly believed it. We have needed that from the top end, and from our younger guys. I want them to think, "If I'm not the starter now, I'm going to be. In the next moment. In the next opportunity. In the next point.""

2021 All-American Demetrius Romero (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

When asked about Demetrius' role on the team, Coach Williams said, "Demetrius has a great grasp of what the team's goals are, and not just his own. He understands the big picture. They see him as an example because he is doing everything right. He has grown on the mat. He has grown off the mat. He has grown as a leader. He gets it. He knows how to be a leader in every aspect of his life; school, on the mat, and in his personal life." Demetrius went on to say, "My role on Utah Valley University's wrestling team is to be a leader for my teammates, but also to be a positive role model in the community. Within the community, there is a mentor program. You always have to give back. We're in positions where younger children are looking up to us and expect us to be role models. I've realized that it's not about an image; it's about the children. I want to be a leader for my community, and the children."

Demetrius went on to say, "I'll admit, I've struggled at being a leader in the past, but with the culture change at Utah Valley University, I've been able to step outside of my comfort zone and really learn to accept other people's perspectives and opinions. My main goal is to help the culture and build a winning dynasty. I've been able to communicate openly with our coaches, and they've allowed Taylor and I to participate in making decisions for the team. This has helped me grow immensely and allowed our team's goals to be unified."

Upon reflection, and after a record-breaking program season, and many successful individual wins, Demetrius attributes his success to a variety of contributing factors. Demetrius said, "There are a lot of reasons why I've been so successful. I attribute that success to how our team was on the same page, alongside our coaches. There has been a huge culture change, which was much needed, even for me. In previous years, we've had a lot of talent, but everyone had their own agenda. This season, the team was all firing off the same cylinder, with the same mindset that we must buy in 100%. I contribute that success to my workout partners. They pushed me every day in the wrestling room, and beyond. I attribute that success to my family. Our dad taught us to make sacrifices and to recognize what is important to us. My family's athletic success is due to my parents. They've always put us in a good athletic position and gave us access to the best resources. My parents know how good I can be, and they've always pushed me to accomplish my goals. Lastly, I attribute my success to Coach Williams, and my relationship with Coach Lofthouse. He is the guy who sits down and watches my film, over and over again. He doesn't teach me to wrestle like him. Instead, he gives me the individualized tools that I need to be successful on the mat with the resources and abilities I have. He is always in my corner, and I have faith that he will lead me towards the most successful path as possible."

Looking ahead into his final season as a Wolverine, Demetrius said the following, "Obviously, I want to become a national champion. I know that I'm there. I will win the Big 12's. It's only a stepping stone. Beyond that, I want to build the team here at Utah Valley University, where I can leave a mark on it. I want people to know that this is Utah Valley University wrestling. This is what we do. We know where we want to go. We are a Top 10 team. I want Utah Valley University to be a Top 10 team. I want to look good. I want my teammates to look good. I want Utah Valley University to look good."

In closing remarks, Coach Williams said, "After implementing this culture change and shifted mindset, the buy-in was so good that at the end of the season, we had 34 end-of-year interviews, and not one person was blaming anybody for their lack of success in reaching their individual and team goals. It's not about blame. It's about improvement. It's about using what I have now and being able to correctly use those resources to make use of my next point. It's about communicating one's needs as an individual, and as an athlete. At the end of the day, if my athletes' goals are not to be on the podium or to become a national champion, then they shouldn't be in our program. That is our program. That is our culture change. It's not to simply be on the team. It's not to be a starter. What matters is that you've made progress and you're trying your best to be the best that you can be, reaching every day to accomplish those champion-like goals. Control what you can control. Your process. Your decisions. Your actions. Finally, as a coaching staff, we feel that the results at nationals, the growth and attitude of all the guys on and off the mat, and the exit interviews were a result of the implementation of these words and themes into their daily process' and the buy-in and leadership on the team."

Beyond Demetrius' success on the mat, he has worked tirelessly to capitalize on the new NCAA rule changes that went into effect on July 1st, 2021. Athletes are now provided with varying degrees of new protections and opportunities to obtain earnings based on their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

Demetrius has partnered with Cumulus Sport to provide a signature collection of kneepads and knee sleeves. In addition, he has partnered with Dash Sport Apparel to create a signature collection clothing line. If you'd like to stay up to date with all of Demetrius' partnerships, you can follow him on Twitter (@DemetriusR97) and Instagram (@dmo_1997). Lastly, Demetrius will be hosting an All-American Camp at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah on September 24th (4:30pm-7:00pm) and September 25th (9:00am-3:00pm). This includes one lunch break, where pizza will be provided. Cost of attendance is $75. You can sign up on myschoolfees.com found in public items under Bruin Wrestling Club.

2021 All-American Demetrius Romero (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

Comments

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adonisj6 (1) about a month ago
Keep growing and keep grinding!! You got this! Nice article!