UVU wrestling traveled to Evanston, Ill. Dec. 29-30 for the Midlands Championships. Many of the top wrestlers in the country faced off in this tournament to showcase their skills and earn respect for their schools. Heavyweight Adam Fager placed seventh, while 174-pound wrestler Monte Schmalhaus placed eighth.
The Wolverines had three weeks to prepare from the end of the Cliff Keen Invitational, which also pitted the UVU against some great talent, for the challenges that awaited the team at the Midlands. The break proved to be a great preparation for the Wolverines.
“It was a great challenge for our guys,” head coach Greg Williams explained. “Midlands is a great tournament; there’s a lot of talent there. Usually the top 12 seeds are ranked guys.
“I feel like we wrestled well,” Williams continued. “There were only about three matches I was displeased with. I think coming off a break like that and wresting the way we did was a huge accomplishment.”
Coming off a fourth place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational Dec. 9, Fager looked to add another tournament placing to his growing list of accomplishments. Fager entered the tournament as the No. 13 heavyweight in the nation and seeded eighth. The odds were on his side to place, and he went 2-1 on day 1, only needing one more victory to ensure the result.
Joining Fager on day 2 were Schmalhaus and 197-pounder Derek Thomas with identical 3-1 marks and hopes of placing. Both wrestlers have been working hard to make a name for themselves. Schmalhaus had hid a bit of a cold streak to start the year, starting 0-4. Thomas, who has been trying to solidify a starting spot, has filled in well for David Prieto, starting 7-9 before the tournament.
Fager won his first match on day 2, which solidified his placement, against Northern Iowa’s Blaize Cabell of Beebe, 6-2. However, Fager then dropped his next match in an overtime bout, 6-5 to Steve Dwyer, and took the seventh place due to the medical forfeit of Chris Lopez of Illinois.
Fager is quickly becoming another great wrestler at UVU. His head coach had great things to say of his performance.
“Adam solidified his position as one of the top 15 wrestlers in the country over the past two days,” Williams said. “His two losses were to the top seed and to a former two-time All-American from Nebraska. He has a couple of areas to improve on before March, but if he’s able to correct those than he will be in a great position to make a run at the platform in Oklahoma.”
Unfortunately for Thomas, his tournament run ended in the first match of day 2, where he lost 9-2 to No. 8 seed Joe Rau.
Schmalhaus continued to wrestle hard to place at the tournament and won his first match. Schmalhaus then lost his next two matches but did finish in eighth place.
Williams also had praise for the senior, who has worked hard to get to stand on the podium, as he did in Evanston.
“Monte put together a stretch of some the best matches that he has wrestled in his career,” Williams said. “He should be proud of his performance here. He is very close to breaking through to another level.”
The Wolverines now head back home for the first time this season and on Jan. 9 host Grand Canyon. Williams is confident that his team will continue to perform well.
“When you’re wrestling as many and quality matches like that, it really shows where we want to be and we feel really good about it,” he said.
The Wolverines will also hold the UVU open Jan. 11.
Garrett is native of Orem, Utah. He is a graduate of Timpanogos High School. While in high school, Garrett enjoyed playing sports and was a double lettered athlete in football in wrestling. After a short stint of college football at Dixie State, Garrett made his way back to Utah Valley in pursuit of his aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. Garrett has been contributing for the UVU Review for three years and has covered sports, specializing in wrestling. Garrett is married to Jodi Coleman and served an LDS mission to Baguio Philippines. You can follow him on twitter @legendgary