Monte Schmalhaus joked he would prefer not to remember the Wolverines’ 2010 dual against Boise State. The then-freshman was matched against No. 1 nationally ranked Kirk Smith, who bolstered his undefeated record at Schmalhaus’ expense.
The team, however, pulled off a major upset over the No. 8 Broncos, holding on for a 22-20 victory. It was a defining program-defining victory led by eventual national contenders Ben Kjar, Flint Ray and Brad Darrington.
“I just remember it was really intense,” Schmalhaus said. “Everybody was really into it. The fans, the wrestlers, everybody. It was just like a typical rivalry.”
Schmalhaus insists the team believed they could pull off the unexpected.
“I think whenever you get ready for a match, you’re looking to win it. We were never like, ‘oh, we’re not winning this.’ We had the mindset going in we could beat them. Then it started falling into place.”
Schmalhaus, now a redshirt sophomore, is the only returning grappler from that landmark win. He goes into Thursday’s rematch looking for redemption even as the Broncos do the same.
The Wolverines are not the same team they were in 2010. Kjar, Darrington and Ray are gone, replaced by standout junior Josh Wilson (149 pounds), Avery Garner (141 pounds), Eric McAllister (heavyweight) and Schmalhaus. A stable of high-profile freshmen, most of them redshirting, round out a talented, but inexperienced roster.
“As a team, we are younger,” Schmalhaus said. “I don’t know if the rivalry is there as much, but as an older guy I think it’d be nice to instill that again so we can get that rivalry back and that intensity.”
The matchup’s rivalry feel can also be attributed to the roots of the grapplers involved. Garner is a Boise native, while sophomores Abern Cook and Trevor Rupp also come from Idaho. The Broncos boast several Utah products, with several past grapplers having been coached by Wolverines head coach Greg Williams.
Like Utah Valley, Boise State doesn’t boast the wealth of ready talent they did in 2010. The Broncos still figure to be a stiff test for the Wolverines, who will rely on their athleticism and what experience they have to prove 2010 was not a one-time win.
“We’ve got some young guys who are just really talented,” Schmalhaus said. “We’ve got heart, so we just have to go out and believe in ourselves.”
The match will be held Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7:00p.m. in the Activities Center.
By Matt Petersen – Sports Editor