Tanner Orndorff and Dustin Dennison pulled out a pair of late crucial matches en route to leading Utah Valley University wrestling to an 18-15 victory over Big 12 Conference foe Air Force on Friday evening at Lockhart Arena.
The Wolverines improve to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 Conference action with the victory, while the Academy drops to 4-2 and 0-1 in league duals.
"It was an exciting match and it's always good to win. The guys are headed in the right direction and definitely getting better," head coach Greg Williams said. "I knew that this was going to be a fun dual meet with a number of close matches. The crowd really made a difference for us in this one."
With AFA holding to a 15-12 lead after eight matches, Orndorff managed to pull out a big 6-1 decision over Air Force senior Parker Hines to tie the team score at 15-15. After a scoreless opening period, the Wolverine redshirt freshman made his move with an escape followed by a takedown to take a 3-0 lead. Orndorff then followed that up with a third-period takedown and an additional riding time point over his Air Force counterpart, who has been ranked as high 13th in the nation by FloWrestling this season, to record the win.
The dual meet then came down to the heavyweight match, and UVU's Dennison was up for the challenge. Holding to a 2-1 lead after two periods of action, the Wolverine junior put the match away with a pivotal reversal followed by a takedown to seal a 6-3 decision and the win for the Wolverines.
The contest not only marked UVU's first Big 12 Conference victory of the season, but also its first in program history after going 0-4 in its inaugural season of competition last year.
"Wins are definitely going to be hard to come by in the Big 12, so we better toughen up and continue to find ways to win," Williams said.
In the opening bout, sophomore 125-pounder Mitch Brown got the Wolverines off to a solid start with an 8-4 come-from-behind victory over the 2016 NCAA qualifier Drew Romero. With AFA's Romero holding to a 4-2 lead in the second period, Brown scored a takedown to tie the match at 4-4. The Wolverine redshirt sophomore and former Air Force product then followed that up with a go-ahead escape, another takedown and an additional riding time point to give the Wolverines an early 3-0 lead.
Air Force's Dylan Hyder then gave the Falcons their first lead of the evening with a first-period fall over Jarod Maynes at 133 pounds. UVU senior Trevor Willson quickly responded with a 4-2 overtime win over John Twomey at 141 pounds to tie the team score at 6-6. With Willson and Twomey deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of regulation, Willson managed to score the decisive takedown just seven seconds into the opening sudden-victory period to pull out the contest.
Utah Valley 149-pounder Grant LaMont then followed that up with a solid 6-0 decision over AFA senior Jerry McGinty to give the Wolverines a 9-6 lead, but Air Force's Dane Robbins immediately answered with a 4-1 decision of his own over Raider Lofthouse at 157 pounds to tie the team score at 9-all.
Alex Lopouchanski then followed that up with another win for the Falcons to give his squad a brief 12-9 advantage thanks to an 8-2 decision over UVU freshman Koy Wilkinson at 165 pounds. The Wolverines didn't waste any time answering the score, however, thanks to a 7-3 decision victory from 174-pounder Kimball Bastian to even the team score at 12-12. With Bastian holding to a late 5-3 lead, the Wolverine redshirt freshman managed to turn a Michael Billingsley shot into a last-second takedown of his own to seal the 7-3 win.
In a tightly contested 184-pound bout, Air Force's Zen Ikehara managed to secure a third-period reversal en route to winning a 2-1 decision victory over Will Sumner to give the Falcons a 15-12 lead with just two matches remaining. That's when Orndorff and Dennison teamed up to pull out back-to-back victories en route to leading UVU to the win.
As a team, the Wolverines managed to win six of the 10 bouts on the evening.
The Wolverines continue their three-match home stand on Thursday, Jan. 19, when CSU Bakersfield comes to town for a non-conference contest. Following Thursday's dual, UVU returns to Big 12 Conference action when it hosts 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.