Utah Valley University heavyweight Adam Fager advanced to day two of the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships with a hard-fought 8-6 decision over Lehigh's Max Wessell on Thursday night in Oklahoma City, Okla.
After suffering a first round loss to Rutgers' Billy Smith (27-6) during Thursday morning's opening session, the junior Fager (19-8) responded by picking up the 8-6 win over Wessell (10-6) in the wrestlebacks during session two.
"This is what I've been waiting for. I haven't felt like myself since I've been back from my injury until tonight," Fager said. "I haven't been wrestling the way that I know I am capable of. But I managed to dig deep and compete like I knew that I could here tonight."
The 15th-seeded Fager opened the bout against Wessell with two first-period takedowns to jump out to a 4-1 advantage. With a couple of escapes in the second frame, Fager held a 6-4 lead after two despite giving up a takedown. Fager then secured the victory in the final period with a late takedown of his own to hold on to defeat Wessell, 8-6, and live another day at his second trip to nationals.
Fager, who is 1-1 so far at the tournament, will face off against No. 16 Amarveer Dhesi of Oregon State (27-8) on Friday morning.
"I'm just going to take each match seven minutes at a time from here on out, and wrestle the way that I know that I am capable of," Fager said.
All three other Utah Valley grapplers that were in action at the national tournament, sophomore 125-pounder Jade Rauser and seniors Avery Garner (141 pounds) and Curtis Abner Cook (165), were eliminated during Thursday's evening session after they all suffered their second consecutive defeats on the day.
After getting pinned in the closing seconds by the top seed and defending national champion Jesse Delgado (27-2) earlier in the day, Rauser (10-5) took on Bucknell's Paul Petrov (31-8) in a win-or-go-home contest. The Wolverine sophomore took command of the bout early as he picked up a quick takedown and a three-point nearfall after nearly pinning Petrov in the opening period. With Rauser leading 5-1 in the second, Petrov picked up a takedown to cut the score to 5-3. After a quick escape by Rauser to start the third period, Petrov took over the bout as he scored three takedowns and a late nearfall to win the match by a score of 12-8.
With the loss, Rauser finished his second trip to nationals with an 0-2 record.
Garner, who dropped his earlier match in the day to No. 15 Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State (30-7), faced a must-win bout against Missouri's Lavion Mayes in session two. Mayes took the upper hand in the early stages with a pair of first-period takedowns to take a 4-1 lead into the second frame. Garner made it 4-2 with an escape, but Mayes followed with another takedown to take a 6-2 advantage. Despite picking up another escape point as well as a takedown in the third period, Garner dropped the bout by major decision, 15-5, after Mayes scored three final takedowns along with an escape and a riding time point in the third.
The 2014 Western Wresting Conference champion Garner finishes his first trip to the Big Show with an 0-2 showing and his senior campaign with a 14-10 record. Garner led the Wolverines in 2013-14 in duals with an 11-4 clip.
Cook, who lost by fall to the two-seed and three-time All-American Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State (26-3) during the opening session, fell behind 8-0 to Gardner-Webb's Austin Trott after giving up a takedown and two sets of nearfalls to Trott (29-8) in the first period. Cook then had a strong second period that included a takedown of his own, but Trott responded in the final stanza with another nearfall and an additional point from riding time to win the match by major decision (12-4).
The senior Cook went 0-2 at his first trip at the NCAA Championships and finished his senior year with a 7-9 overall record.
In the team score race, the three-time defending national champions Penn State lead the way with 26.5 points. Minnesota and Oklahoma State are next as they are tied for second with 21.5 points, and Iowa and Oklahoma are tied for fourth with 20.5. Utah Valley is currently in a tie for 63rd place with a half a point.
The tournament will continue Friday at 10 a.m. CT with the third session. The session will be televised live on ESPNU as well as streamed online on ESPN3.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.
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