Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing
Utah Valley senior Will Sumner (right) grapples with Fresno State's Jackson Hemauer on Friday at Lockhart Arena in Orem. Sumner went on to defeat No. 21 Hemauer, 6-2, for his second win of the day.

The 23rd-ranked Utah Valley University wrestling team opened the day with a 33-9 victory over Western Wyoming but couldn't overcome a slow start on its way to dropping a 26-10 contest to Fresno State in its Big 12 Conference opener on Friday evening at Lockhart Arena.

The shorthanded Wolverines (8-7, 0-1 Big 12) won eight of the 10 bouts over WWCC (5-5), including four by bonus points, on their way to the dominant victory before winning just three of the 10 bouts to fall to the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-3 Big 12).

"Fresno State outwrestled us. It doesn't matter how many guys we have out of the lineup; they came here and beat some of our best kids," head UVU coach Greg Williams said. "We haven't had that much adversity with our top wrestlers, so it will be fun to see if they'll be able to battle back next week and I think that they will."

In UVU's Big 12 opener against Fresno State, the Bulldogs got off to a strong start thanks to an 11-3 major decision from Robert Garcia IV over Josh Jensen at 125 and a 9-0 major decision from Gary Joint over Dylan Gregerson at 133 to give Fresno State an 8-0 lead. Eighth-ranked sophomore Matt Findlay then got the Wolverines going at 141 with a dominant 16-0 technical fall win over Chris Deloza to make it 8-5 in the team score. Findlay had a trio of takedowns and three nearfalls on his way to improving to 13-1 on the season and 12-1 in dual action.

Former Wolverine and 17th-ranked Bulldog Khristian Olivas then responded for Fresno State with a 14-8 decision at 149 over UVU's Landon Knutzen to extend Fresno's lead to 11-5. Isaiah Hokit followed for the Bulldogs with a 19-6 major decision over Spencer Heywood at 157 to extend Fresno State's advantage to 15-5 after five matches.

Ninth-ranked UVU 165-pounder Demetrius Romero responded for the Wolverines with a 7-5 decision over Brandon Martino to make it a 15-8 team score. Martino responded with a late takedown to make things close, but the 2018 Wolverine NCAA qualifier managed to hold on for the victory. With the win, Romero improved to a team-best 18-2 overall and 11-1 in dual action. The Bulldogs then responded with an 8-4 decision from Dominic Kincaid over Koy Wilkinson at 174 to extend Fresno State's lead to 18-8 with just three matches remaining. Wilkinson, who bumped up a weight class to wrestle for an injured No. 13 Kimball Bastian, wrestled tough for UVU, but in the end, he ended up falling by decision.

In a must-win match for the Wolverines at 184, Will Sumner found himself tied with No. 21 Jackson Hemauer at 2-2 entering the final period. With Sumner in the top position and with 90 seconds left in the contest, the Wolverine senior turned Hemauer and gained a four-point nearfall and nearly pinned the ranked Bulldog on his way to recording a key 6-2 decision to pull the Wolverines within 18-11 in the team score.

"Will's victory was a good win," Williams added. "Will has been right there all year, so this a good win for him against somebody that is in the rankings."

In a battle of two ranked foes at 197, the reigning Big 12 Wrestler of the Week in No. 16 Josh Hokit jumped out to a 6-3 lead early in the second period over No. 11 Tanner Orndorff. In the third period, Orndorff came all the way back to trail just 8-6 and looked for the tying takedown when Hokit managed to catch the two-time UVU NCAA qualifier in a cement mixer and pin him at 6:38 to lock up the dual for the Bulldogs. Both teams were deducted one team point apiece following the match thanks to a little trash talking from the Fresno State two-sport athlete – football and wrestling – and a shove from Tanner Orndorff.

In the final contest of the evening, No. 10 Tate Orndorff found himself trailing No. 21 AJ Nevills, 3-1, in the early stages of the third period. With Tate Orndorff looking to gain a late takedown to tie the bout, Nevills turned the tide in his favor with a late takedown of his own en route to recording a 5-1 win over the top-10 ranked Wolverine.

UVU was without the services of starters No. 13 Kimball Bastian (174), 2018 NCAA qualifier Taylor LaMont (125/133), Grant LaMont (157), Matthew Ontiveros (149) and Isaiah Delgado (133) due to injuries.

In the opening dual against the Mustangs, Jensen got the Wolverines off to a strong start with a first-period fall over Dalton Stutzman to give the Wolverines a 6-0 lead. Gregerson, who got the start at 133 for UVU, then followed up with a tightly contested 5-4 win over Joey Revelli to extend Utah Valley's lead to 9-0. After giving up a late takedown to tie the bout, riding time proved to be the difference as Gregerson took the bout by a point.

WWCC then picked up six points at 141 thanks to a forfeit to make it 9-6, but the Wolverines quickly responded with a technical fall win by Knutzen at 149 to extend UVU's lead to 14-6. Knutzen recorded a dominant 18-0 victory over Samuel Freeman to give Utah Valley an eight-point lead on the scoreboard. Samuel Freeman responded for the Mustangs with a 9-5 win over Heywood at 157 pounds to make it a 14-9 contest.

Wilkinson bounced back nicely for the Wolverines at 165 with a 17-2 tech fall win over Wyatt Monroe to extend UVU's advantage to 19-9. Wilkinson recorded a pair of takedowns and three nearfalls on his way to earning the tech-fall win. Kyle Snelling followed up with a 10-3 decision over Western Wyoming's Jace Anderson at 174 to make it 22-9. The senior Sumner then kept things going for the Wolverines at 184 with a dominant 17-0 tech fall victory over WWCC's Jared Bird to extend UVU's lead to 27-9. Leading 8-0 entering the final period, Sumner got things going with an escape, a takedown and a pair of nearfalls to give Sumner the win by tech fall.

Ashton Seely kept UVU's winning ways going at 197 with a 7-4 decision over Connor Kirkland to make it 30-9 with just one match to go. Heavyweight Benjamin Andrew then capped the dual with a 9-4 victory over Landon Brown for Utah Valley's fifth-straight win and to cap the dual with a 33-9 win over Western Wyoming.

Comment on this story

Sumner was the lone Wolverine to win two matches on the day.

The Wolverines will remain home to host the UVU Open on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m., at Lockhart Arena. Wrestlers from No. 23 Utah Valley, No. 12 Wyoming, Western Wyoming, Fresno State, Air Force, Arizona State, Northern Colorado, Northwest College and Western Colorado are all expected to compete. Following Saturday's action, UVU will welcome Pac-12 foe CSU Bakersfield and Big 12 foe West Virginia to town for a tri-dual next Friday, Jan. 25.