Utah Valley wrestling opened up Western Wrestling Conference action in dramatic fashion against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits Feb. 6, winning 18-15.
The Wolverines looked as they were going to run away with the victory early on, but South Dakota State fought back until the very end as the dual victory hung on the very last match.
“We had a few opportunities earlier in the contest where we could’ve pulled out a couple of major decisions that would’ve given us a little larger cushion,” assistant head coach Justin Ruiz said. “But overall I was pleased that the majority of our guys fought hard and really got after it.”
The match started out as 184-pound wrestler Ethan Smith took to the mat, looking to continue his great wrestling as of late and follow his last victory with another. The match started out well for Smith, who was the aggressor for most of the match. Early in the match, Smith was trying to get a takedown when his opponent’s foot struck him in the eyebrow, causing him to bleed.
Wrestling is the type of sport where that sort of thing doesn’t matter, and Smith wrestled on despite bleeding for most of the match. The match proved to be tough for Smith as he continued to wrestle hard and his match went into double overtime before he was able to get the victory to give the Wolverines a 3-0 advantage.
Derek Thomas (197 pounds) also has been tearing it up on the mat for the Wolverines and added to Smith’s win via a 6-4 decision. The Wolverines jumped out to a 6-0 lead, only to have it vanish in the heavyweight class, as No. 13 Adam Fager again did not participate, forcing true freshman Richard Larsen to wrestle. Larsen was pinned by J.J. Everard.
The Wolverines had two monstrous wins and identical scores from No. 17 Jade Rauser (125) and Chasen Tolbert (133), who both had 9-4 decisions to give the Wolverines a 12-6 lead halfway through the match.
Avery Garner (141) added another win to give the Wolverines a 15-6 cushion. However, the Jackrabbits strung together the next three matches to tie the score at 15 with only one match to go, and it featured 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus.
The scenario couldn’t have been more perfect for the Wolverines, who had a great wrestler in Schmalhaus, a senior that came away with victory against John Nething II.
The energy from those in attendance was infectious as the grapplers shook hands to begin the match. Cheers from all around the arena showed the crowd was hungry for victory. Neither wrestler wanted to give up the match and have his team fall in defeat.
It didn’t take long for Schmalhaus to grab the lead in the first period with an early takedown. His opponent was later able to escape, but Schmalhaus maintained the lead heading into the third period.
The score still read 3-2 as the final minute ticked away and time winded down for SDSU. As only seconds remained in the match, the SDSU coaches were yelling for stalling to be called on Schmalhaus who in the final seconds of the match, took his competitor down and sealed the victory, 6-2, with riding time added to his score as UVU defeated SDSU 18-15.
“It was a great win and we’re glad that Monte was able to seal the deal for us. He wrestled well tonight did a nice job of getting the job done when it mattered the most,” Ruiz said
Utah Valley continues the conference play with the remaining schedule on the road and face off against Northern Colorado on Feb. 12. The Wolverines will return for the WWC tournament March 8.