U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Air Force notched two major decisions and a fall to fly by Utah Valley, 26-10, in Big 12 Conference action on Senior Night in Clune Arena. The Falcons recorded their first win against a top-25 team since head coach Sam Barber took the helm in 2014.
Utah Valley chose to draw for the starting weight in which the Falcons opened the night with sophomore 165-pounder Tyler Wiederholt. Wiederholt relentlessly pursued Max Sultan, only allowing two escapes while totaling 11 points for himself for the major decision win.
Utah Valley bounced back with a 10-1 major decision of their own by way of 17th-ranked Kimball Bastian at 174. Team captain Zen Ikehara rebutted with a hard fought 3-2 decision win in the 184 class to give the Falcons a 7-4 lead.
Going blow-for-blow, Utah Valley’s Tanner Orndorff posted an 8-4 decision over Anthony McLaughlin to knot the team score at seven. No. 26 Dustin Dennison of Utah Valley gave the Wolverines their first and only lead of the night with a 3-1 decision over sophomore heavyweight Matt Wagner.
From that point on it was all Air Force as the Falcons posted five-straight victories from the 125 class to the 157 class. Freshman Tony DeCesare, who checked in at No. 32 in the second coaches’ poll of the season, posted a 5-1 decision over Josh Jensen. Junior 133-pounder Isaac Jimenez continued the roll with a convincing 12-2 major decision over Durbin Lloren, denying the Wolverine any takedowns.
The highlight of the night came by way of sophomore 141-pounder Alec Opsal as he took the mats against Matt Findlay. Findlay came out fierce, scoring takedowns at will and building an early lead over Opsal. Testament to his resilience and grit, Opsal battled back into the match with a reversal that led to near fall points as he turned the Wolverine to his back. Refusing to settle for points alone, Opsal dug deep and rolled Findlay to his back yet again, this time for the pin at the 4:47 mark. The fall propelled the Falcons to their largest lead of the night, 20-10. Opsal remains undefeated in dual action (7-0) with a 4-0 mark in Big 12 duals.
Senior 149-pounder Dane Robbins capped his senior night on a high note as he recorded a convincing 7-1 decision over Matthew Ontiveros, denying yet another Wolverine any takedowns on the match and securing the dual for the Falcons. Junior 157-pounder Alex Mossing, who checked in at No. 33 in the second coaches' poll, put the final touches on the meet with an impressive 8-2 decision over Raider Lofthouse, denying a fourth Wolverine any takedowns. At the final whistle, the Falcons upended No. 25 Utah Valley, 26-10.
“It was a great team effort,” said Barber. “We fell down early but dusted ourselves off and got back in the fight with solid wrestling-- I’m proud of the way our guys responded.”
“We made a lot of solid improvements," Barber Continued. “We hit a major milestone in beating a top-25 team. That has been on our program’s goal sheet for a while and the men worked hard, made the right adjustments, and now they get to check that box for the program. It’s validity for these guys and the program that we’re doing the right things, but we want more and we’re going to continue to push the pace to achieve the rest of the goals we set for ourselves. We always want more.”
The Falcons return to action in Clune Arena against Big 12 foe Wyoming, Friday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.
AIR FORCE vs. #25 UTAH VALLEY*, Feb. 10
165: Tyler Wiederholt (AF) MD Max Sultan (UVU) –11-2 | AF 4, UVU 0
174: #17 Kimball Bastian (UVU) MD Michael Billingsley (AF) –10-1 | AF 4, UVU 4
184: Zen Ikehara (AF) Dec. Will Sumner (UVU) –3-2 | AF 7, UVU 4
197: Tanner Orndorff (UVU) Dec. Anthony McLaughlin (AF) –8-4 | AF 7, UVU 7
285: #26 Dustin Dennison (UVU) Dec. Matt Wagner (AF) –3-1 | UVU 10, AF 7
125: Tony DeCesare (AF) Dec. Josh Jensen (UVU) –5-1 | UVU 10, AF 10
133: Isaac Jimenez (AF) MD Durbin Lloren (UVU) –12-2 | AF 14, UVU 10
141: Alec Opsal (AF) Fall Matt Findlay (UVU) –4:47 | AF 20, UVU 10
149: Dane Robbins (AF) Dec. Matthew Ontiveros (UVU) –7-1 | AF 23, UVU 10
157: Alex Mossing (AF) Dec. Raider Lofthouse (UVU) –8-2 | AF 26, UVU 10
FINAL: AIR FORCE 26, UTAH VALLEY 10