Behind seven total victories, including three by bonus points, the Utah Valley University wrestling team knocked off Big 12 Conference foe North Dakota State, 26-13, for the second-consecutive year in UVU's home opener on Friday afternoon at Lockhart Arena.
The Wolverines, who are currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll, improve to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 action with the win, while the Bison, who also currently receiving votes for the top 25 and ranked 24th by InterMat, drop to 1-4 and 0-3 in Big 12 competition.
"We knew coming in that most of the matches were going to be hard fought because North Dakota State is a good program and every single one of their guys fights hard," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "I know that we have a good team and a lot of people are starting to be aware of that. I told our guys before the match that we needed to show that we are on the rise and they did just that. We have several guys that are out-wrestling their opponents in the third period no matter what the score is, and that is a big step for our program."
Sixth-ranked Taylor LaMont (125 pounds), Matt Findlay (141) and Tanner Orndorff (197) won their respective bouts by bonus points, while fellow Wolverines No. 16 Demetrius Romero (165), Kimball Bastian (174), Gary Jantzer (184) and Dustin Dennison (285) also won their matches by decision.
"I told the team after that I was proud of their effort and proud of everyone in the room," said Williams. "We still haven't accomplished what we have sought out to, but everyone wrestled very well and that was truly a team win."
In the opening bout at 141 pounds, the redshirt freshman Findlay got the Wolverines off to a strong start with a first-period fall over NDSU's Nico Colunga. Findlay scored an early takedown and followed that up with a four-point nearfall to take a 6-0 lead. The Wolverine 141-pounder then again rolled Colunga on his back and managed to secure the fall at the 2:24 mark to give UVU an early 6-0 advantage.
The Bison then answered back with back-to-back wins to take a 9-6 lead. Kyle Gilva started the rally with a 9-1 major decision over Matthew Ontiveros (149), and No. 14 Clay Ream followed for NDSU with a 26-10 technical fall over Raider Lofthouse at 157 pounds to give North Dakota State what proved to be its only lead of the dual meet.
In a battle of two ranked opponents at 165 pounds, UVU sophomore and 16th-ranked Romero earned a hard-fought overtime win over No. 12 Andrew Fogarty to deadlock the team score at 9-9 and swing the momentum in Utah Valley's favor. With Fogarty holding a 3-2 lead in the third period, Romero managed to pick up an escape point to tie the match at 3-3 and send the contest into overtime. In the first sudden victory period, Romero then managed to wrap up Fogarty's legs and take him down to secure the 5-3 overtime win.
Sophomore 174-pounder Bastian and 184-pound redshirt freshman Jantzer then followed with consecutive decision wins to give the Wolverines a 15-9 lead. Bastian first earned a 4-0 win over Colton Clingenpeel, before Jantzer followed with a 5-2 decision over Tyler McNutt. Bastian scored a takedown, an escape and a riding time point to take his bout by a score of 4-0, while Jantzer managed to hold on late and even recorded a match-sealing takedown just as time expired to take the 5-2 victory.
Sophomore 197-pounder and 2017 NCAA qualifier Orndorff then continued UVU's winning ways with a 11-3 major decision over North Dakota State's Cordell Eaton to give the Wolverines a 19-9 lead. Orndorff controlled his match against Eaton and earned a late takedown and an additional riding time point to lock up the major decision. Heavyweight and fellow 2017 NCAA qualifier Dennison then followed for the Wolverines by pulling out an exciting 12-9 decision over NDSU's Dan Stribral to extend UVU's lead to 22-9. Trailing 8-3 after nearly getting pinned in the third period, Dennison managed to respond with a reversal and a four-point nearfall of his own to take a 9-8 lead. He then sealed the victory with a late takedown and a riding time point to lock up the win for the Wolverines.
Sixth-ranked and 2017 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champion Taylor LaMont then pushed UVU's winning streak to six-straight matches with a 9-1 major decision over Paul Bianchi. Holding a 3-0 lead midway through the third period, LaMont wrapped up the victory with a four-point nearfall, an addition stall point and a riding time point to earn Utah Valley's third bonus-point win of the afternoon. Just last week, LaMont was named the Big 12 Conference, NCAA Wrestling, USA Wrestling and FloWrestling Wrestler of the Week after defeating four ranked foes en route to winning the 125-pound championship at the prestigious CKLV Invite.
In the final match of the afternoon, 22nd-ranked Cam Sykora finally ended NDSU's scoring drought with a 12-3 major decision over UVU's Durbin Lloren (133).
The win not only marked UVU's second of the season over a Big 12 foe, as it previously defeated West Virginia at the Clarion Duals on Nov. 3, but also its second straight over North Dakota State, as the Wolverines also knocked off the then 23rd-ranked Bison by a score of 22-16 in Fargo a season ago.
Utah Valley will now step out of dual action to compete at the Reno Tournament of Champions this weekend in Reno, Nevada. The one-day tournament takes place on Sunday, Dec. 17, and will be streamed live on FloWrestling. Following the tournament, a handful of Wolverines will head to the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2, in Chatanooga, Tennessee, before returning to Orem to host No. 16 South Dakota State on Jan. 12.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.