UVU wrestling: Wolverines open conference slate at home this weekend

By James Warnick

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5 2014 2:15 p.m. MST

The Utah Valley University wrestling team begins its Western Wrestling Conference dual season this week at home against South Dakota State and No. 20 North Dakota State. The duals will close a three-match home stand and will mark the final regular season home contests of 2013-14 for the Wolverines.

Thursday's contest against the first-place Jackrabbits will begin at 4 p.m., while Friday's versus the ranked Bison will start at 7. Both will take place in the PE Building and will feature live video on UVU's website and live results on Track Wrestling's site.

"We are looking forward to beginning the conference season but we've still got a couple of things that we need to work on," UVU head coach Greg Williams said. "We're trying out some new conditioning drills and we are hoping that they will make a difference. The kids are working hard and we're hoping to have our 10 best kids healthy and ready for the conference tournament."

Friday's dual meet against the Bison will mark Senior Night for three Utah Valley grapplers as seniors Avery Garner (141 pounds), Curtis Abner Cook (165) and Monte Schmalhaus (174) will be recognized for their stellar careers in Orem prior to the contest. All three are team captains for UVU this season, and Garner is currently leading the group with a 9-6 overall record and a team-best 8-2 clip in duals.

UVU enters the week with a 4-6 overall record (0-0 WWC) and is coming off a 23-18 come-from-behind victory over Boise State at home last Saturday. The Wolverines trailed the Broncos, 12-0, after three bouts and 18-10 with three to go, but Jade Rauser (125), Chasen Tolbert (133) and Garner helped Utah Valley come back to take the dual as they won the final three bouts of the evening.

Rauser, who was wrestling in his first match since November due to an injury, took care of business with a 10-1 major decision over BSU's Rami Haddadin. Tolbert then followed that up by pinning Ben DeMulle in just 49 seconds to give Utah Valley its first lead of the night at 20-18. Garner, who was named the WWC Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday, then secured the dual for the Wolverines by defeating three-time NCAA qualifier Brian Owen by decision, 6-3.

UVU, which went 3-2 in WWC duals last season, is currently led by heavyweight Adam Fager as he is ranked 13th in his weight class by InterMat and 12th by Amateur Wrestling News, and he holds a 15-6 record. Rauser (4-1) also finds himself back in the national rankings, as he will enter the weekend ranked 17th by InterMat and 14th by AWN. Fager and Rauser qualified for the NCAA Championships for UVU last year.

About South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits are currently in first place in the conference standings with an unblemished 2-0 mark in league duals. SDSU picked up its conference wins over Wyoming (18-17) in Gillette, Wyo., and Air Force (18-14) in Brookings, S.D., a couple of weeks ago. Overall, the Jacks are 3-5 on the season and will come to Orem on the heels of a pair of non-conference losses to No. 5 Northern Iowa (29-12) and Ohio (32-6) last Saturday.

Cody Pack leads the Jackrabbits on the season as he holds a 20-6 record and is currently ranked 17th at 157 pounds.

Thursday will mark the ninth all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Jacks. Utah Valley will enter the contest with a 7-1 all-time series advantage over SDSU as well as having won the last six meetings between the two.

About North Dakota State

The Bison (7-4, 1-0 WWC) are ranked 20th in this week's USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll, which is the highest NDSU has ever been rated in school history. North Dakota State is coming off a 23-17 loss to No. 15 Wisconsin in Madison last weekend, but prior to that NDSU had reeled off five straight victories. During that stretch, the Bison defeated Cal Poly (35-6), Bakersfield (27-12), Boise State (26-15), No. 20 Oregon State (19-17) and Air Force (41-6).