Linsey Craig, UVU Athletics
Three Utah Valley University wrestlers advanced to day two at the 51st annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships that is being contested at Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena. Senior 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus and sophomore 197-pounder Derek Thomas both went 3-1 on Sunday, while junior heavyweight Adam Fager posted a 2-1 record to advance to Monday's final day of competition.
All three grapplers will have to win their first match Monday to guarantee a top-eight finish at the prominent tournament.
"I was pleased with how the guys wrestled throughout the lineup. It's great to have three of them still wrestling on Monday," head coach Greg Williams said. "Monte and Derek both faced two or three really solid opponents and I was thrilled that they were both able to put together three straight wins. Adam also looked strong today."
Fager, who entered the tournament as the eight seed and is currently ranked 13th in his weight class, won his first two matches of the tournament to advance to the quarterfinals. The junior heavyweight for the Wolverines made quick work of his first foe as he pinned Chicago's Jeff Tybrurski in his first bout in just 1:43. Fager, who placed fourth at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational just a couple of weeks ago, then picked up a big 7-3 decision over the nine seed and 20th-ranked Ty Walz in his next contest to reach the quarterfinal round.
In the quarters, Fager matched up with the top seed and third-ranked Bobby Telford of Iowa. Fager gave the All-American grappler from Iowa a run for his money, but in the end, Telford handed the Utah Valley heavyweight a 6-1 defeat.
After Schmalhaus and Thomas dropped their first matches of the tournament, the duo bounced back nicely by each winning their next three matches to advance to Monday.
After getting pinned by the top seed and sixth-ranked Mike Evans from Iowa in his opener, Schmalhaus got things going in the wrestlebacks by defeating Edinboro's Andrew Church, 3-2, Kutztown's Andre Petroski, 4-0, and Northern Illinois' Matt Mougin, 6-2. In his final contest of the day against NIU's Mougin, Schmalhaus used three late near fall points as well as riding time point to pick up the 6-2 win over Mougin.
Thomas took a similar route to advancing to day two as he reeled off three straight wins after getting pinned by the five seed and 16th-ranked Alex Polizzi of Northwestern. The Wolverine 197-pounder picked up his three wins over Columbia's Matt Idelson (11-4), Northern Illinois' Shawn Scott (5-4) and Virginia Tech's David Reck (2-1). In Thomas' final match of the evening against the unattached Reck from Virginia Tech, the Wolverine 197-pounder managed to pull out the one-point victory in overtime as he picked up an escape in the tiebreaker round.
Schmalhaus will open Monday against the unattached Jordan Wohfert from Michigan State, while Thomas will face the eight seed Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) who is a former All-American from Elmhurst College. Fager will take on Northern Iowa's Blaize Cabell.
Three other Utah Valley grapplers finished their 2013 Midlands with identical 1-2 records. The trio of Wolverines — redshirt freshman Bracken Nipko (125 pounds), sophomore Chasen Tolbert (133) and senior Avery Garner (141) — all managed to win their first bouts before dropping their next two.
Despite finishing the tournament with a 1-2 clip, Garner picked up a huge upset victory over the four seed and 20th-ranked Shyheim Brown of Maryland, 11-10, in his first match of the tournament. Garner fell behind 8-0 early in the contest but managed to turn things around and overcome the large deficit to complete the upset. Tolbert picked up his victory via major decision, 9-0, over Northwestern's Johnny Coukos, while Nipko took his by medical forfeit over the nine seed from Eastern Michigan Jared Germaine.
"Besides a couple of bouts, I thought that we wrestled hard throughout every match and it looked like we've improved on a number of things," Williams said.
In the team score race, the Wolverines sit in 20th place out of 47 teams with 16.5 points. Iowa currently leads the tournament with 112 points.
Monday's third session will begin at noon CT, while the final session that will consist of first, third and fifth place bouts will take place Monday at 8 p.m. CT. Monday night's finals will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
Following the conclusion of the Midlands Championships, UVU will return home to welcome Grand Canyon to town for its first home dual of the season on Jan. 9. The Wolverines will remain in Orem to host the UVU Open on Jan. 11.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.