Blake Mangum stood, the official raising his fist toward a standing ovation after the 133-pounder had beaten Penn State’s Frank Martellotti by a 3-1 decision.
It didn’t matter that it narrowed the Nittany Lions’ lead to 29-3, only that the Wolverines finally mattered. Mangum’s victory ended up being the only one of the night for UVU’s wrestling team against the defending national champions.
“We’re a team that’s going to be able to beat some really good teams in the future. We’re a team that’s learning. “We’re developing. We’re trying our best every single day to become better wrestlers. We have seven or eight freshmen that are in our starting lineup. I think that really shows we are a young team, but we can be better every single year.”
Mangum, a transfer freshman from the University of Oklahoma, opted not to wait another year. He tied Martellotti with an escape point in the third round, then executed a take down with 17 seconds remaining to complete the comeback.
The Utah County native, just three months removed from a Mormon mission in Brazil, said he was motivated the by the site of his UVU predecessor Flint Ray, who was sitting courtside watching his 133-pound replacement. Ray was one of three national qualifiers for the Wolverines in 2011.
“Every time we’d go down or go into a top-and-bottom position, Flint was always right there right in front of me,” Mangum said. “I think it was second or third period, I just looked at Flint and he just looked at me and he was just like, ‘come on, let’s go.’ I was like, ‘all right.’” I think that just kind of gave me a boost of confidence. Flint, he was a good wrestler here, and he had confidence in me to win that match. I think that helped out a lot.”
Several of Mangum’s teammates weren’t as fortunate. Three of the first five UVU grapplers lost by pin, while three others lost by major decision. Mangum and head coach Greg Williams, however, insisted the night was overall progress rather than in-game production.
“We were wrestling a superior team,” Williams admitted. “We wanted the guys to go out there and wrestle with passion so we could get a real feel for where they’re at and how to improve, not to go out there and think ‘okay, I want to keep this close. These guys are really good.’”
Good enough to run away with a 39-3 victory in Orem. Eight ranked opponents littered Penn State’s starting lineup compared to Utah Valley’s one. That one was No. 12 Josh Wilson (149 pounds), who was matched against No. 1 Frank Molinaro. Wilson hung on gamely, but failed to score a point in a 6-0 decision defeat.
The one-sidedness of the match left a UCCU crowd of 5,470 looking for anything to cheer about, and they got it early from 197-pounder Bryan Chamberlain (197 pounds). The unranked true freshman ignited the arena with a first-period takedown and led No. 12 Morgan McIntosh 3-1 heading into the third and final period.
McIntosh responded, rallying with a one-point escape and a two-point takedown of his own to edge Chamberlain 4-3.
“That’s the best [Chamberlain’s] wrestled,” Williams said. “He goes out against a really good kid, and I could tell right away when he went out, he went out to win.”
Williams has been open all season in addressing this year as a rebuilding phase. The Wolverines have no seniors on the roster, but have a pool of 28 freshmen and the junior Wilson as its only upperclassman starter.
“I saw some really good signs from some young wrestlers that they’re going to keep fighting,” Williams said. “That’s what I’ve been hoping will happen with this team, and I saw some great signs of that tonight.”
Match notes: The match marked a home-state return for Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and 174-pounder Matt Brown. Sanderson, who went 159-0 in NCAA wrestling, is a native of Heber City. Brown won three state titles at Cypress High School.
This article by Matt Petersen was originally written for and published by the Daily Herald.