Feb. 9, 2012
OREM, Utah -- Coming off a sweep of Pac-12 foes Cal Poly and Stanford last weekend in Palo Alto, the Utah Valley wrestling squad will close out its home dual slate with three crucial matches Friday and Saturday. Western Wrestling Conference rivals South Dakota State and North Dakota State will visit Orem on Friday, then defending national champion and second-ranked Penn State will roll into town on Saturday. All three matches will be held in the UCCU Center.
Friday's duals with SDSU and NDSU begin at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, while Saturday's contest with the Nittany Lions is set for 7 p.m.
"These WWC duals are very important for us because they will help determine where we will be seeded for conference and it will also be great to have Penn State come in because they have a ton of talent," UVU head coach Greg Williams said. "We are going to go out and fight and we'll see what happens. We like to have home matches and we are very pleased to be hosting them, especially Penn State."
Live results for each dual can be found at WolverineGreen.com, provided through TrackWrestling. All three contests will also be streamed online at uvu.edu/uvutv and Saturday's match with PSU will be televised live locally on UVU-TV.
Last weekend's victories over Cal Poly and Stanford snapped a five-match losing streak for the Wolverines (5-7, 0-3 WWC). UVU took down Cal Poly 19-17 behind a late win from 184-pounder David Prieto, whose 5-1 overtime victory late in the dual salvaged the match. The Wolverines followed that victory with a dominant performance against Stanford, racing out to a quick 16-0 lead after winning the first four matches of the contest. UVU would go on to win seven of the dual's 10 bouts on its way to a solid 25-10 result.
Josh Wilson, a junior wrestling in the 149-pound weight class, is currently ranked 14th nationally for the Wolverines. Wilson is 14-7 overall this season and is 6-3 in dual matches.
UVU has also gotten strong outputs from 125-pounder Colby Christensen
(18-10), 141-pounder Avery Garner
(16-12), 165-pounder Ethan Smith
(17-11), and heavyweight Dustin Dennison
(22-15) this season.
Wilson and Garner also both landed a spot on the second of three NCAA coaches' panel rankings and the first Rating Percentage Index (RPI) for the 2011-12 wrestling season that came out on Thursday. Wilson came in at 14th on the RPI list and 16th on the coaches' panel rankings, while Garner was ranked 28th on the RPI poll.
South Dakota State (4-6, 0-3 WWC) comes into Friday having split a pair of duals at the SIUE Triangular, then falling at conference opponent Northern Iowa last weekend. The Jackrabbits were defeated by Indiana, 30-8, but rebounded that night with 25-15 triumph over host Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. SDSU followed that with 25-12 loss at the hands of UNI the following Sunday.
Junior 125-pounder Aaron Pickrel has been the most consistent force for the Jacks, compiling a 21-8 overall record to go along with an 8-2 mark in duals. From there, SDSU has seen good production from 141-pound junior Dustin Walraven (14-7) and 157-pound senior Nick Flynn (19-9).
Utah Valley is 5-1 all-time against South Dakota State and defeated the Jacks 40-6 in the squads' 2011 meeting in Brookings, S.D.
North Dakota State (5-7, 2-1 WWC) enters the weekend coming off a defeat at Northern Iowa as well, losing a close match 22-18 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In that match, UNI held a slim 19-18 lead heading into the heavyweight bout, but NDSU's Evan Knutson couldn't steal the win from UNI's Blayne Beale, dropping a 7-3 decision.
The Bison are led by 157-pounder Steven Monk, currently ranked 13th in the nation, and his 27-7 overall record. Monk is also 10-2 in duals this season. At the 125-pound division, NDSU boasts No. 19 Trent Sprenkle who is 25-9 this year and 9-3 in duals. Mark Erickson, a 149-pounder, has also put together a nice year for the Bison, holding a 20-13 record.
UVU is 1-5 all time against NDSU with last year's meeting resulting in a 25-10 victory for the Bison in Fargo, N.D.
Penn State is the biggest opponent to ever visit Orem as the Nittany Lions come into Saturday's dual ranked No. 2 in the NWCA/USA Today Poll and No. 1 in the InterMat poll. Penn State is also the defending national champion and is coached by former Wasatch High School great, and Heber City, Utah, native Cael Sanderson.
Sanderson, considered one of the greatest amateur wrestlers of all time, went undefeated in four years of college wrestling at Iowa State and won four consecutive NCAA titles. He is the only wrester in NCAA history to have gone undefeated in official matches with over 100 career wins. Sanderson also won a gold medal at the 84 kg (184-pound) weight class at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Sanderson's brother, Cody Sanderson, was the first-ever coach of Utah Valley University wrestling, taking over the fledgling program in 2003. He coached for three seasons before leaving to become assistant coach for his brother Cael at Iowa State. Cody Sanderson is now associate head coach for Penn State.
Last weekend, PSU (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) hammered No. 7 Nebraska, 31-6, and No. 12 Michigan, 34-7, to claim a share of the Big Ten title.
Eight of the 10 projected starters for Penn State are ranked, and four of those eight are ranked first or second in their respective weight classes. Frank Molinaro, a 149-pounder, is 23-0 and currently No. 1 in the country, thirteen spots above UVU's Wilson. David Tyler is the other Nittany Lion atop the rankings, ranked first in the 165-pound weight class with a 21-0 record on the year. From there, Ed Ruth, a sophomore in the 174 division, is ranked second, as is Quentin Wright at 184. Ruth is undefeated, 23-0, while Wright holds an impressive 20-2 mark.
Also featured on the Penn State squad is No. 8 Nico Megaludis (125), No. 6 Dylan Alton (157), No. 12 Morgan McIntosh (197), and No. 6 Cameron Wade (HWT).
Saturday marks the first ever meeting between UVU and Penn State and the third time the Wolverines have faced a Big Ten team this season. Utah Valley wrestled against No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Illinois at the Wrestle for a Cure Duals in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 12.
After this weekend, UVU will hit the road for its final dual of the year, a 7 p.m. matchup next Wednesday night at Northern Colorado. The NCAA West Regional/WWC Championships will then be held in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on March 4th.
If you show your ticket to Saturday's dual vs. Penn State to the UCCU Center Ticket Office you can receive $1 admission to Friday evening's contests with SDSU and NDSU. Also free t-shirts will be handed out to the first 500 fans in attendance to Saturday's dual against Penn State courtesy of the Utah Army National Guard..