Since becoming an affiliate member of the Big 12 Conference nearly three years ago, the Utah Valley University wrestling team will host its first Big 12 core member on Friday when the Oklahoma Sooners come to town. The conference dual begins at 7 p.m., at UVU's Lockhart Arena and will be televised locally on UVU TV.
The contest will be matchup between a pair of teams currently just outside the top 25, as OU is currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 poll and UVU was receiving votes for the poll as recent as a just week ago. Besides being televised locally on UVU TV, the Big 12 dual will also be streamed online live via GoUVU, and live results will also be available by visiting TrackWrestling.
"It's exciting to host Oklahoma on a couple of fronts. First, Oklahoma is a historically great program with a rich wrestling tradition. There's always an aura about them, and it's great to be able to wrestle them on our home mat," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "Secondly, it's exciting because we can compete. We've worked hard to get to this point, and we have guys who will go out there and give us a chance to win this match. If our guys go out and wrestle the way that they are capable of, it's going to be a great match."
The Wolverines enter the contest in third place in the Big 12 standings with a 3-1 conference record and a 7-3 overall ledger. UVU went a perfect 2-0 in its most recent road trip with pair of wins at Big 12 opponent Fresno State on Jan. 19 and Pac-12 foe CSU Bakersfield on Jan. 20.
UVU won seven of the 10 bouts en route to earning a 26-12 win over the Bulldogs in the trip opener and followed that up by winning six matches on its way to recording a 20-15 win at CSUB. Sixth-ranked 125-pound redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont and 141-pound redshirt freshman Matt Findlay led the way by each winning both of their bouts by bonus points, while 16th-ranked sophomore Demetrius Romero (165 pounds), sophomore Kimball Bastian (174) and redshirt freshman Gary Jantzer all went a perfect 2-0.
Three Wolverines are currently nationally ranked for Utah Valley, as LaMont, who is UVU's highest ranked wrestling in program history, is currently ranked as high as sixth nationally by TrackWrestling at 125 pounds, while Romero comes in at 16th on a number of polls and senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison is ranked 26th on the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel ranking. The redshirt freshman LaMont too leads UVU with a 22-2 overall record, while Romero is 22-4 and Dennison is 24-7. LaMont will also enter Friday's contest holding a team-best 10-match winning streak.
The Sooners, who have won seven national team titles and 67 individual championships in program history, enter the weekend with a 7-7 overall record and in sixth place in the Big 12 standings with a 3-3 conference clip. OU has won two of its last three duals with home wins over Big 12 foes Iowa State (21-16) and Northern Colorado (28-10), but it had a 22-13 setback to No. 12 South Dakota State last Sunday. Of Oklahoma's seven losses on the season, five of them have come to nationally ranked foes. The Sooners also hold a 21-15 victory over No. 20 Lock Haven on the season, as they took down the ranked Bald Eagles at the Virginia Duals on Jan. 12 and finished second at the Big 12 Championships a season ago with 93.5 total points.
Seven of OU's grappler enter the weekend currently ranked. Yoanse Mejias leads the Sooners as he comes in at 10th at 174 pounds. Christian Moody is next as he's ranked 16th at 125, while Davion Jeffries is 20th at 149, Dewaylon Barnes is 24th at 149, Mike Longo is 26th at 141, Andrew Dixon is 32nd at 197 and Justin Thomas is 33rd at 157.
All-time history vs. Oklahoma
Friday's dual will mark the fourth all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Sooners. Oklahoma holds an unblemished 3-0 series lead after beating UVU in the three previous meetings at the Lone Star Duals in Arlington, Texas. On January 7, 2006, the then third-ranked Sooners beat UVU, 47-4, while No. 4 OU defeated the Wolverines on January 6, 2007, 47-0, and No. 12 Oklahoma beat UVU, 43-0, on January 14, 2012. Current associate head coach Erkin Tadzhimetov holds Utah Valley's lone individual win against OU, as he defeated Oklahoma's Blakely by major decision in 2006 (12-2).
Up next for UVU
The Wolverines will next hit the road for their final road trip of the regular season next weekend with Big 12 duals at No. 22 Wyoming on Feb. 9 and Air Force on Feb. 10. UVU will then return home the following week for its final dual of the season against fellow conference foe Northern Colorado on Friday, Feb. 16.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.