A shorthanded 22nd-ranked Utah Valley University wrestling team split a pair of tightly contested dual meets on Saturday afternoon at Stanford's Burnham Pavilion in Palo Alto. Due to injury, the Wolverines were without the services of a number of starters.
After pulling out a 27-16 victory over Harvard thanks to a pair of late falls, UVU dropped a hard-fought 20-19 decision to the host Cardinal. Despite splitting the nightcap at five bouts apiece and getting another fall from 10th-ranked heavyweight Tate Orndorff in the final bout, Stanford — which is currently receiving votes for the NWCA Top 25 Coaches Poll — claimed the contest by a mere point thanks to winning four of its five victories by bonus points.
"I thought that we wrestled a little sluggish in the first match against Harvard, but that we responded and wrestled with good energy in the second one (against Stanford)," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "One of the things that we want the guys to buy into is to continually fight for points all throughout the match… And I felt like we did that."
Tate Orndorff led the way for UVU (7-6, 0-0 Big 12) on the day with a pair of falls, while ninth-ranked 141-pound sophomore Matt Findlay, ninth-ranked junior 165-pounder Demetrius Romero and senior 184-pounder Will Sumner also all went a perfect 2-0 for the Wolverines on Saturday.
In the opening dual, Harvard (0-1, 0-0 EIWA) jumped out to a 5-0 advantage following a win by technical fall at 125 pounds. UVU quickly responded, however, with back-to-back wins from freshman Isaiah Delgado at 133 and the ninth-ranked Findlay at 141 to take a 7-5 lead. Delgado recorded a 9-3 decision over Lukus Stricker for his second dual meet victory of the season, while Findlay continued on his strong sophomore campaign with a 10-1 major decision over Ryan Friedman to pick up a bonus-point win and give the Wolverines the early lead.
The Crimson responded with consecutive wins from Brock Wilson at 149 and Hunter Ladnier at 157 to give the Ivy League institution a 13-7 lead. The 2018 NCAA qualifier Romero then responded for Utah Valley with a dominant 17-2 tech fall victory over Josh Kim for five much-needed team points, but Harvard bounced back with a 7-4 decision from Leo Tarantino over UVU's Kyle Snelling to extend the Crimson's lead to 16-12 with just three matches to go.
Senior 184-pounder Will Sumner then started a stretch of three-straight Wolverine victories by pulling out a hard-fought 7-5 overtime win over Cliffton Wang. With the bout knotted up at 5-5 heading to the first sudden victory period, Sumner managed to record a late takedown to seal the bout and pull UVU within a point, 16-15, on the team score. Tenth-ranked junior and two-time NCAA qualifier Tanner Orndorff (197) immediately followed with a big second-period fall over Harvard's Cole Bateman (3:32) to give Utah Valley a 21-16 lead with just one match to go. Not to be outdone by his older brother, fellow 10th-ranked Wolverine heavyweight Tate Orndorff then sealed the dual for UVU with a first-period fall over Evan Callahan (1:29) to give the Wolverines the 27-16 victory over the Crimson. The Orndorff brothers combined to pin their respective Harvard counterparts in just 5:01.
In the nightcap against the host Cardinal (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12), UVU built an early 6-4 lead after winning two of the first three matches. Senior 125-pounder Josh Jensen got the Wolverines off to a strong start with a 4-1 decision over Brian Rossi to make it 3-0. After a Stanford victory by major decision at 133 gave the Cardinal a 4-3 advantage, Findlay responded for UVU with a 10-7 decision over Brandon Kier to extend his season record to 12-1 and his dual record to 11-1.
Stanford bounced back with consecutive bonus-point wins at 149 and 157 to take a 13-6 lead, but Romero responded for the Wolverines with an 8-0 bonus-point win of his own over 2017 All-American 20th-ranked Paul Fox at 165 to make it a 13-10 contest. With a pair of wins on the day, including the shutout over the former All-American, Romero upped his season record to a team-best 17-2.
The Cardinal then extended their lead to 17-10 with a major decision win from Rico Stormer at 174, but back responded UVU with another hard-fought win from Sumner at 184 to make it 17-13. Trailing 6-1 after the first period, the senior Sumner got things going and managed to battle all the way back to claim a 10-8 decision over Austin Flores.
With the dual still up for grabs and a marquee match that featured a pair of top-10 ranked opponents in No. 10 Tanner Orndorff and Stanford's eighth-ranked Nathan Traxler, Traxler held off a late Orndorff threat to pull out a 9-7 victory. Trailing late and with the clock winding down, Orndorff secured one of Traxler's legs and looked to gain a much-needed takedown, but the reigning Pac-12 Wrestler of the Week and 2018 Cardinal NCAA qualifier managed to slip out of his hold and hold on for the victory to lock up the dual for the Cardinal.
With the Wolverines trailing 20-13 with just one match to go, Tate Orndorff didn't give up for UVU as he managed to pull out his second win by fall on the day with a 4:09 fall over Stanford's David Showunmi and conclude the dual at 20-19. Tate Orndorff is now 16-3 on the year after posting the 2-0 day.Comment on this story
UVU was without the services of several starters due to injury, which included No. 13 Kimball Bastian (174), Grant LaMont (157), Mitch Brown (133) and 2018 NCAA qualifier Taylor LaMont (125/133), who is slated to miss the season.
The Wolverines will now return to Orem for their first home duals of the 2018-19 season when they welcome both Big 12 foe Fresno State and Western Wyoming to town on Friday, Jan. 18. UVU will first face Western Wyoming at Lockhart Arena at 5 p.m., before closing the night with its first Big 12 Conference dual of the season at 7 p.m. Utah Valley will then close the weekend by hosting the annual UVU Open on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 9 a.m.