Victory was in the forefront of Utah Valley (3-4) wrestling on Jan. 18 when they took on a team in Arizona State (5-4) that was looking to avenge a loss that the Wolverines had given the Sun Devils last season in come-from-behind fashion.
The Wolverines again had to start out in a 6-0 deficit due to the injury ridden weight class of 125 lbs. Jade Rauser again sat out the match as he has been recovering from injury and the return of Rauser is heavily anticipated and readily welcome as he should be ready for the next match.
Despite the obstacle of starting from behind, the team needed to and did respond well to the challenge. Back-to-back wins came for the Wolverines from sophomore Chasen Tolbert (133) and senior Avery Garner (141) that rocketed UVU to a 7-6 lead as Tolbert defeated Kalin Goodsite by decision and Garner had a major decision over Matthew Kraus.
The seesaw battle continued as each team was looking to pull away from the other to achieve the ultimate goal of victory. The Sun Devils went on a streak and had pulled ahead with an 18-13 lead over the Wolverines. It all came down to No. 13 ranked heavyweight Adam Fager. If Fager pinned his man, the Wolverines would have cruised into victory in the final match.
The first period of the match ended with no points awarded to either wrestler. Fager gave up an escape in the early moments of the second period and attacked with a quick single-leg takedown to take the lead 2-1. Like a hungry tiger playing with its prey, Fager again let his opponent go to take him down again to take a 4-2 advantage. Towards the end of the second period, Fager earned another point, this time for stalling and had a 5-2 advantage heading into the final minutes of an electrifying dual.
Fager had two minutes to become the hero and pin his man. ASU knew this and had to do everything in their power to not let that happen. Fager earned another takedown to lead 8-2 and the final buzzer rang, Utah Valley had battled back and rallied, but it wasn’t enough as the Wolverines lost the dual 18-16.
“It’s the third match [this season] that we’ve lost when we should have won,” head coach Greg Williams explained. “Even if we would have lost the match, [at 125] we still would have won without the forfeit.”
Coach Williams had the big picture in mind when dealing with this match. The team wants to win, but more importantly the team has set the goal to get as many wrestlers to the national stage as possible. With that in mind, if the injury-ridden Rauser would have wrestled, he could have lost and lost his ranking. Instead of putting that in jeopardy, the choice was made to sit Rauser and get him ready for another big dual against Boise State that will help the Wolverines prepare for the conference portion of the season.
The Wolverines will have had a few weeks to prepare for the Broncos, who will come to town on Feb. 1. These two teams have had some epic battles in the past; including the Wolverines capturing the biggest win in school history in 2010 upsetting then No. 8 Boise 22-20.
Most recently, the Broncos bested the Wolverines 34-10 in Boise and boast a 5-2 all-time record against the Wolverines. However, Utah Valley has won two straight against BSU at home. Hopefully the home crowd advantage will play in UVU’s advantage.
Williams will hope to use the time that he and the team have been given to again defeat the Broncos at home.
“When you have two weeks like this, there’s two things you want to do,” Williams said. “You want to work on technique that needs work and there’s time for it, but you also want to step up conditioning. We’ll push it harder this week.”
After Boise, Utah Valley will have a slew of conference and will wrestle five duals in two weeks. Included in those five are two straight at home on Feb. 6 and 7 against South and North Dakota State.
Photo by Laura Fox