The Utah Valley University wrestling team won six of the 10 bouts en route to defeating Big 12 power Oklahoma for the first time in program history by criteria, 19-18, on Friday evening at Lockhart Arena.
With OU (7-8, 3-4 Big 12) holding an 18-15 lead entering the final match, UVU 141-pound redshirt freshman Matt Findlay pulled out a 12-10 overtime victory over No. 26 Mike Longo to deadlock the team score at 18-18. The dual then headed to criteria, and Utah Valley (8-3, 4-1 Big 12) held the tiebreaker thanks to winning six individual matches on the night.
"I'm really pleased with how the guys wrestled. I told the team that if they went out and fought, we would win this match because we know that we are good enough," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "Despite having Taylor LaMont out of the lineup tonight, I'm not surprised with how we wrestled. It was just a wonderful outcome and I'm thrilled for our team, our coaching staff and our fans."
Trailing 9-0 after two matches, 16th-ranked sophomore Demetrius Romero got the Wolverines going with a hard-fought 3-2 come-from-behind decision over No. 24 Dewaylon Barnes to jumpstart a five-match winning streak for Utah Valley. Sophomore Kimball Bastian then immediately followed with a 2-1 upset victory over 10th-ranked Yoanse Mejias, 184-pound redshirt freshman Gary Jantzer picked up a 9-6 win of his own over OU's Matthew Waddell, sophomore 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff continued UVU's winning ways with a 6-2 decision over No. 32 Andrew Dixon, and 26th-ranked senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison capped the spurt with a 2-1 decision over Connor Webb to give Utah Valley a 15-9 lead on the team score.
With Romero trailing 1-0 entering the final stanza, the Wolverine 165-pounder got things going with an escape and followed things up with the decisive takedown to hold on to the 3-2 win and improve to 23-4 overall and a perfect 11-0 in duals on the year. Bastian (12-7, 5-2 overall) then followed with the upset of the night by recording the 2-1 victory over the 10th-ranked Sooner and 2017 NCAA qualifier Mejias. After being granted a penalty point in the first and an escape in the second, Bastian held a 2-1 lead over Mejias with time winding down in the final period. Mejias then looked to have scored the go-ahead takedown with mere seconds remaining, but after review, the official erased the takedown off the board and Bastian held on for the big upset.
Jantzer (18-10, 7-3 duals) then continued the Wolverine spurt with a 9-6 win of his own over Waddell. The UVU 184-pounder recorded three takedowns, two escapes and an additional riding time point en route to earning the 9-6 decision. Orndorff (17-10, 7-4 duals) then had a strong final two periods against Oklahoma's Dixon to score the 6-2 win over the OU senior. Trailing 2-1 in the second, the UVU 2017 NCAA qualifier Orndorff scored an escape to even the score and followed that up with a two-point nearfall, a stall point and a riding time point to beat Dixon, 6-2. The 26th-ranked and fellow 2017 NCAA qualifier Dennison (25-7, 7-2 duals) then capped UVU's spurt by holding on a 2-1 win over Oklahoma's Webb. Dennison scored an escape and a stall point on his way to earing his career-best 25th victory of the season.
With sixth-ranked Wolverine Taylor LaMont out of the lineup due to an injury, 16th-ranked Sooner Christian Moody (125 pounds) put an end to UVU's streak with a second-period fall over junior Josh Jensen to tie the team score at 15-15. OU's Jake Rubio followed with a tightly-contested 2-0 victory over Durbin Lloren at 133 pounds to give the Sooners an 18-15 lead heading into the final match.
Facing a must-win challenge against No. 26 Longo, UVU's Findlay (8-5, 4-1 Big 12) didn't disappoint the home crowd by knocking off Longo in overtime to seal the win for the Wolverines. With Findlay and Longo seemingly matching one another move for move, the Wolverine redshirt freshman scored six points in the final two periods to tie the bout at 10-10 and send the contest into overtime. Findlay didn't ease up, as he scored the match-sealing takedown in the first sudden-victory period to take the bout by a score of 12-10 over the three-time NCAA qualifier Longo.
As a whole, the Wolverines defeated four ranked opponents in the contest. Oklahoma is also currently receiving votes for the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll.
With the win, Utah Valley remains in third place in the Big 12 standings with a 4-1 league record. UVU only trails No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 12 South Dakota State, which are both tied for first with identical unblemished 5-0 Big 12 records.
The contest marked UVU's first home dual against a core Big 12 Conference member since joining the league as an affiliate nearly three years ago and its second win of the year over a core Big 12 foe after previously defeating West Virginia earlier in the season.
"I don't think you can ask for anything better than to have your crowd come into a big match like we did tonight. It really came down to the wire and our guys could feel that energy," Williams added when asked about the home crowd of 1,488 fans. "It meant a lot and it was great."
The Wolverines will now hit the road for their final road trip of the regular season next week, as they head to the Front Range to face No. 22 Wyoming in Laramie on Feb. 9 and Air Force in Colorado Springs on Feb. 10. Both contests begin at 7 p.m. MT, and will be streamed live on FloWrestling. Following that trip, UVU will return home for its final dual of the season when it welcomes Northern Colorado to town on Feb. 16, at 7 p.m., for Senior Night.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.