After three successful tournament outings, the Utah Valley University wrestling team returns to dual action when it welcomes Air Force to town for its 2016-17 Big 12 Conference opener on Friday, Jan. 13. The Big 12 showdown begins at 7 p.m., at UVU's Lockhart Arena.
"We're excited for Friday's dual," head coach Greg Williams said. "Air Force has done a nice job of recruiting over the past couple of years and has a solid lineup. It's going to be a good battle and we're hoping that we'll pick right up where we left off (against Oregon State)."
The Wolverines (2-2, 0-0 Big 12) enter Friday's conference opener off a strong showing at the 10th annual UVU Open last Saturday. For the second-consecutive year, six Utah Valley grapplers won titles at the home tournament. Heavyweight Dustin Dennison led the group by winning the second UVU Open championship of his career, while unattached Wolverines Heston Woolsey (125 pounds), Taylor LaMont (133), Matthew Ontiveros (149), Kieffer Taylor (174) and Gary Jantzer (184) all won their first.
Dennison, LaMont and Jantzer topped the group by going a combined 14-0 at the UVU Open. LaMont and Janzter each finished with identical 5-0 records, while Dennison posted a perfect 4-0 mark.
In Utah Valley's last dual meet, the Wolverines managed to come from behind to defeat the 23rd-ranked and five-time defending Pac-12 Champion Oregon State Beavers by criteria (17-16). After dropping the first four matches of the evening to fall behind by a score of 13-0, UVU managed to reel off five-straight crucial victories to take a 16-13 advantage. OSU heavyweight Cody Crawford then capped the dual with a 2-1 decision over Dennison to deadlock the team score at 16-all after all 10 bouts. The contest then went to criteria, and the Wolverines managed to hold the tiebreaker thanks to the most individual match points (78-72) to record the victory over the ranked Beavers.
Raider Lofthouse (157), Koy Wilkinson (165), Kimball Bastian (174), Will Sumner (184) and Tanner Orndorff (197) recorded individual victories for UVU in the win over Oregon State, which included a much-needed major decision from Bastian and an upset victory from Orndorff. The redshirt freshman Ondorff managed to help the Wolverines seal the win by capping UVU's five-match winning streak with an 8-4 decision victory over the 2016 NCAA qualifier and then 14th-ranked Corey Griego, while Bastian recorded an eight-point third period en route to pulling out an 11-3 major over Weston Dobler.
Heavyweights Jordan Karst and Dennison pace UVU on the season with respective 21-5 and 15-6 records, while the 197-pound Orndorff is next with a 15-10 clip and 174-pounder Bastian will enter Friday's contest with a 14-9 ledger.
About Air Force
The Air Force Academy comes to Orem with a 4-1 overall record, and Friday's contest will too mark its 2016-17 Big 12 opener. AFA enters the weekend showdown off a 3-0 outing at the Tracy Borah Duals last weekend in Gunnison, Colorado, with a trio of wins over smaller division foes Simon Fraser (37-6), Cal Baptist (22-15) and Western State Colorado (31-9). The Falcons also hold a 29-9 victory on the year over UNC Pembroke and a 29-6 setback to No. 9 North Carolina State. Air Force went 8-6 overall a season ago and 2-3 in its first season of competition in Big 12 Conference duals.
The Falcons return a pair of former NCAA qualifiers on their 2016-17 roster, in 125-pounder Drew Romero and 133-pounder Dylan Hyder. Romero advanced to nationals a year ago, while Hyder punched his ticket as a freshman in 2012. Hyder is off to an 11-9 record this season, while Romero is 9-7. Fellow 197-pound Falcons Anthony McLaughlin and Parker Hines too are having strong seasons, as McLaughlin holds a 13-6 record and Hines holds a 9-4 clip.
All-time history vs. Air Force
Friday's contest will mark the 14th all-time dual meet between the Wolverines and Falcons. UVU holds a slim 7-6 series advantage and a 4-1 record in Orem.
Up next for UVU
Friday's contest against AFA will mark the first of three-consecutive home dual meets for the Wolverines. Following Friday's match, UVU will step out of conference action to welcome CSU Bakersfield of the Pac-12 Conference to town on Thursday, Jan. 19, before returning to Big 12 action against Wyoming on Jan. 28.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.