Wrestlers open season with second-place finish

Redshirt freshman Abner Cook (left) and sophomore Josh Wilson (right) wrestled in the 157/149 weight class during the team’s intrasquad duel night. Kira Terry/UVU Review

The Wolverine grapplers finally got a chance to test their might outside the practice room.

Other schools are probably wishing they had stayed in theirs.

UVU finished second overall at the Trapper Open, Nov. 6, in Powell, Wyo. Individually, 12 Wolverines finished fourth or better in the team’s first match of the season.

The team’s total of 196.5 points was second only to the 213.5 put up by the Univ. of Great Falls.

Head coach Greg Williams considered UVU’s performance a good steppingstone towards more meaningful matches later in the season.

“There were a lot of things that we saw that we need to improve,” Williams said. “But we’re really pleased with how we’ve started.”

Senior Flint Ray (133 lbs.) and sophomore Paul Johnson (125 lbs.) finished first in their respective weight classes. Ray’s preseason efforts had Williams expecting big things from his veteran, who did not disappoint in Wyoming.

“He’s been looking really good in the room,” Williams said. “You don’t know exactly what to expect as far as live matches after they’ve been off for a while. When you take a look at these early tournaments, you find out what you’ve got. Flint looks really solid. As good as I’ve ever seen him look, and he’ll only improve as the season progresses.”

As impressive as the returners were, the freshmen gave just as much reason for optimism in their first taste of college wrestling. Johnson’s first-place finish came at the expense of freshman teammate Colby Christensen by a 7-4 decision.

Other newcomers who placed were 133-pounder Derek Malan (third), redshirt 165-pounder Abner Cook (third) and 165-pounder Colby Barlocker.

“I was really impressed with younger wrestlers,” Williams said. “Seeing Colby Christensen and Derek Malan, seeing those guys come out and compete as well as they did was great.”

With their first encouraging results under their belt, the Wolverines will look to fine-tune their game as non-conference play continues this weekend in Omaha at the Kaufman-Brand Open.

“What we like about what happened [at Powell], even as well as we felt we did, there were a lot of things, a list of eight or nine things that we were working on,” Williams said. “Everyone thinks they can do better. Flint thinks he can do better.”

Other squads can only hope that isn’t the case.

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