Utah Valley University junior Adam Fager knocked off the No. 4 and No. 5 seeded heavyweight wrestlers Friday in Las Vegas to reach the semifinals at the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Fager will continue his 2013 CKLV Invite run Saturday morning against the eight seed and 19th-ranked Adam Coon of Michigan.
Fager, who is the reigning WWC Wrestler of the Week after going a perfect 3-0 last weekend at the Stanford Duals, continued his winning ways Friday as he picked up three more wins. The 12th-seeded Wolverine began his day with a 10-4 decision over Blaize Cabell of Northern Iowa and followed it up with his first upset victory over the five seed and 14th-ranked Ross Larson of Oklahoma. Fager wrestled a stellar match against Larson as he defeated the ranked foe by a score of 13-8 to make the quarters.
Fager, who recently fell out of the national rankings with a pair of losses to ranked foes in Michigan a couple of weeks ago, then topped the four seed and 13th-ranked Blake Herrin of American by a point, 3-2, to make the semis. With the perfect 3-0 clip Friday, the 2013 NCAA qualifier for UVU has guaranteed himself a top-six finish Saturday.
"Just a great day for Adam. Those are two really tough guys that he defeated in his last two matches," UVU head coach Greg Williams said. "Coon from Michigan is a stud and will really challenge Adam tomorrow, but he'll be ready as he is wrestling with a lot of confidence right now."
Sophomore 197-pounder Derek Thomas too remains alive for day two of the CKLV Invitational after he went 3-1 on Friday. Thomas got off to a solid start as he defeated Boise State's Cody Dixon, 3-1, in the sudden victory overtime period in his opener. After getting pinned in his next bout by the top seed and second-ranked 197-pounder in the nation in Oregon State's Taylor Meeks (4:15), Thomas then came through with back-to-back wins over The Citadel's Marshall Haas and the nine seed Basil Minto of Northern Iowa in the consolation bracket. The UVU sophomore beat Haas, 5-3, before upending the seeded Minto, 2-1, in overtime.
Thomas will need just one win Saturday to place in the top eight at the renowned tournament. The Utah Valley 197-pounder will begin Saturday morning against the No. 6 seed and 17th-ranked Braden Atwood of Purdue.
"Derek is a great athlete and I was really pleased that he was able to put it all out on the mat today and make it to Saturday," Williams said. "He had a couple of very good wins and did a nice job of pulling them out at the end."
Behind Fager and Thomas' big opening days, sophomore Chasen Tolbert (133 pounds) too wrestled well as he won two matches Friday.
After dropping his opening bout to the eight seed from Rutgers Vincent Dellafave, Tolbert bounced back nicely by winning his next two matches by fall in the wrestlebacks. The 133-pound Wolverine pinned Iowa State's Dakota Bauer just 1:33 into the opening period and followed that up with a big second-period fall over the seven seed from Virginia Joe Martinez (4:13). Tolbert then had his tournament run come to a close Friday night against Virginia Tech's Dennis Gustafson as Gustafson defeated the UVU sophomore by major decision (14-5).
Tolbert finished his 2013 CKLV Invitational run with a 2-2 record.
Fellow sophomore Logan Addis (157) also picked up a victory for the Wolverines on Friday as he went 1-2 with a 9-1 major decision victory over Colorado State-Pueblo's Larry Schmueser in his second match of the tournament.
Redshirt freshman Bracken Nipko (125), senior Avery Garner (141), sophomore Trevor Willson (149), senior Monte Schmalhaus (174) and junior Ethan Smith (184) were also in action for the Wolverines at the CKLV Invite on Friday. All five faced off against stiff competition and their tournament runs ended with identical 0-2 records.
In the team score race, UVU sits in 21st place out of 33 teams with 17.5 points. No. 4 Oklahoma leads the tournament with 84.5 points, while No. 10 Nebraska is in second with 75 points and No. 20 Michigan is in third with 72.5.
This year's CKLV Invite is one of the toughest tournament fields to date as it boasts 12 top 25 teams and 75 ranked wrestlers.
The second and final day of the tournament will begin at the Las Vegas Convention Center at 9 a.m. PT. The finals will then take place that afternoon at 3.
Fager will become just the second Wolverine in school history to wrestle in the semifinals at the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday. Two-time NCAA qualifier and former 149-pound standout Josh Wilson was the other as he placed fifth at the prominent tournament in 2011.
Utah Valley's CKLV Invite results
125: Bryden Lazaro (Cal Baptist) MD Bracken Nipko (UVU), 13-4
125: Ares Carpio (ASU) Dec. Bracken Nipko (UVU), 5-3
133: No. 8 Vincent Dellafave (Rutgers) Dec. Chasen Tolbert (UVU), 7-4
133: Chasen Tolbert (UVU) Fall Dakota Bauer (Iowa State), 1:33
133: Chasen Tolbert (UVU) Fall No. 7 Joe Martinez (Virginia), 4:13
133: Dennis Gustafson (Virginia Tech) MD Chasen Tolbert (UVU), 14-5
141: No. 4 Luke Vaith (Hofstra) Fall Avery Garner (UVU), 2:22
141: Travis Himmelman (Boise State) MD Avery Garner (UVU), 13-3
149: No. 6 Chris Castillo (Boise State) Dec. Trevor Willson (UVU), 3-2
149: No. 11 Brandon Richardson (Wyo.) Dec. Trevor Willson (UVU), 2-1
157: No. 9 John Nicholson (Iowa State) MD Logan Addis (UVU), 15-4
157: Logan Addis (UVU) MD Larry Schmueser (CSU-Pueblo), 9-1
157: No. 10 Robert Burg (Navy) MD Logan Addis (UVU), 9-0
174: No. 8 Dominic Kastl (Cal Poly) Dec. Monte Schmalhaus (UVU), 5-4
174: Benjamin Ralston (Michigan) Dec. Monte Schmalhaus (UVU), 6-5
184: No. 1 Jacob Swartz (Boise State) Dec. Ethan Smith (UVU), 9-2
184: Dan Seidenberg (Rutgers) Dec. Ethan Smith (UVU), 4-2; TB
197: Derek Thomas (UVU) Dec. Cody Dixon (Boise State), 3-1; SV1 comment on this story
197: No. 1 Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) Fall Derek Thomas (UVU), 4:15
197: Derek Thomas (UVU) Dec. Marshall Haas (The Citadel), 5-3
197: Derek Thomas (UVU) Dec. No. 9 Basil Minto (UNI), 2-1; SV
285: No. 12 Adam Fager (UVU) Dec. Blaize Cabell (UNI), 10-4
285: No. 12 Adam Fager (UVU) Dec. No. 5 Ross Larson (Oklahoma), 13-8
285: No. 12 Adam Fager (UVU) Dec. No. 4 Blake Herrin (American), 3-2
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.