After a successful road trip that saw the Wolverines earn victories over Fresno State and CSU Bakersfield, the UVU wrestling team returned home Jan. 4 to host Oklahoma in Big 12 dual meet action. Both teams entered the contest receiving top 25 votes, as UVU hosted a core Big 12 member for the first time since joining the conference. After a rocky start, the Wolverines got rolling. Carried by several heroic performances, UVU was able to hang on to earn the win during the final minute of competition.
“I’m really pleased with how the guys wrestled,” said head coach Greg Williams. “I’m very excited for the guys because they worked super hard, excited for my coaching staff because they worked super hard and I’m excited for our fans. It was wonderful.”
After a pair of wins by Oklahoma in the first two matches put the Wolverines in an early 9-0 hole, no. 16 ranked Demetrius Romero came out to face no. 24 Dewaylon Barnes in the 165 pound match. Trailing 1-0 heading into the final period, Romero came up with an escape and a huge take-down late in the match to hold on for a narrow 3-2 victory, cutting the overall Sooner lead to 6 at 9-3.
In the ensuing bout, Kimball Bastian (174lbs) faced off against no. 10 ranked Yoanse Mejias. It was a grueling battle, with neither wrestler giving anything to his opponent. A penalty point and an escape gave Bastian a narrow 2-1 lead over the favored Mejias as the match waned. Just before time expired in the final period, Mejias recorded a take-down that would have given him a 3-2 win. Moments later, after a challenge from UVU head coach Greg Williams, the take-down ruling was overturned thus erasing the awarded points, and giving Bastian a 2-1 upset victory.
The Wolverines were able to hang on to the momentum, as Gary Jantzer, Tanner Orndorff and no. 26 ranked Dustin Dennison consecutively earned wins in their respective matches, giving UVU a 15-9 team advantage over the Sooners.
The Wolverine winning streak was snapped in the 125 pound bout. With no. 6 ranked Taylor LaMont out of the lineup for UVU, junior Josh Jensen went out to face no. 16 ranked Christian Moody. After a hard fought first period, Jensen ran into some trouble in the second and would eventually go down by way of fall, tying the overall score at 15-15.
After Durbin Lloren lost a heart-breaker in the tightly contested 133 pound match, the Wolverines found themselves trailing once again with the final bout ensuing. Down 18-15, the Wolverines needed a victory from Matt Findlay over no. 26 ranked Mike Longo in the 141 pound match to have a chance to win the meet.
Trailing after the first period, Findlay was able to mount a comeback and tie the match 10-10 in the third period to send the bout into a sudden death overtime. With the crowd chanting his name, Findlay was able to record a take-down during the period to win the match, tying the team score at 18-18. The meet went to criteria, and UVU was awarded the victory as it held a 6-4 advantage in total matches won.
“It honestly did boost me. I was like, alright-they got my back, I got theirs. It was a lot of fun to be in a packed arena, I’m grateful for the fans and their support. It was a really fun place to feel that support and feel that wave of emotion behind me, it definitely pushed me forward,” said Findlay, speaking to the impact of the crowd.
Oklahoma falls to 7-8 overall and 3-4 in Big 12 competition, while UVU goes to 8-3 overall and 4-1 in conference, placing them third in Big 12 standings behind Oklahoma State and South Dakota State.
Next up for UVU is a trip to Laramie, Wyo. to face the no. 22 ranked Wyoming Cowboys.