OREM - After a competing at a pair of open tournaments over the last two weeks, the Utah Valley University wrestling team will begin dual competition this weekend in Michigan.
The Wolverines will open their dual slate against No. 24 Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Friday evening before heading to Ypsilanti to face Michigan State, Ohio and Gardner-Webb at the Eastern Michigan Duals on Saturday. UVU and CMU will battle Friday at 6 p.m., while the Wolverines will face MSU on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., Ohio at noon and GWU at 1:30 p.m. All times are listed in MT.
Live results for the four duals can be found by visiting the Trackwrestling website. Friday's opening contest against the ranked Chippewas will also feature live video that can be found at CMU's website.
The majority of Utah Valley's starters will be hitting the mat for the first time this season after all but three of them took the first two tournaments of 2013-14 off. Just redshirt freshman Bracken Nipko, who will be getting starting nod at 133 pounds this weekend, along with sophomores Trevor Willson (149 pounds) and Derek Thomas (197), have previously competed this year. The trio of grapplers participated at the Cowboy Open in Laramie, Wyo., on Nov. 2, and Nipko and Thomas went 2-2 at the opening-season tournament while Willson posted an 0-2 outing.
In all, the Wolverines return nine of their 10 starters from last season in which they went 6-4 overall and finished third in the Western Wrestling Conference with a 3-2 league record.
Two of UVU's returning starters are nationally ranked this season after they competed at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Sophomore Jade Rauser is ranked 12th at 125 pounds by InterMat, while junior heavyweight Adam Fager comes in at 20th in his weight class.
Also expected to start on the mat for the Wolverines in Michigan are seniors Avery Garner (141), Curtis Abner Cook (165) and Monte Schmalhaus (174). The trio of upperclassmen went a combined 56-31 last season and are all looking for strong senior campaigns this year. Sophomore Chase Cuthbertson as well as junior Ethan Smith are also slated to compete for UVU at 157 and 184 pounds, respectively.
About the opponents
UVU will be facing three of its four opponents on the weekend for the first time in program history, as it has never previously wrestled the Chippewas, Spartans or Bobcats. The Wolverines, however, hold a 1-0 all-time against Gardner-Webb as they defeated the Runnin' Bulldogs, 37-6, in Greensboro, N.C., on Nov. 19, 2009.
The weekend will mark Utah Valley, Central Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio's first dual competition of the season, while Gardner-Webb will enter Saturday's EMU Duals with a 1-2 record after it defeated Anderson (40-9) on Nov. 2 but fell to Virginia (43-0) and West Virginia (24-12) that same day at the Virginia Quad Meet.
The Chippewas of the MAC find themselves ranked 24th in the nation after going 17-3 last season and finishing 18th at the NCAA Championships. Three CMU wrestlers are ranked this season and 133-pounder Joe Roth leads the way as he comes in a 14th. Mike Ottinger (174) and Zach Horan (141) are right behind him as they are ranked 15th and 16th, respectively.
MSU of the Big Ten Conference finished its 2012-13 campaign with a 4-14 overall record, and senior Michael McClure is the lone Spartan currently showing up in the InterMat rankings as he finds himself ranked ninth in the heavyweight division.
The Bobcats, who also call the MAC home, are receiving votes in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll this season after going 9-5 a year ago and finishing 29th at Nationals. Four Ohio grapplers are ranked, and All-American Cody Walters leads the way as he comes in at seventh at 174 pounds. Heavyweight Jeremy Johnson is next as he is ranked 10th, while Spartak Chino (157) and Phil Wellington (197) each come in at 16th in their respective weight class.
The Runnin' Bulldogs of the Southern Conference went just 4-13 a year ago and currently do not have any wrestlers ranked in the InterMat polls.
Up next for the Wolverines
After this weekend, Utah Valley will head to Palo Alto, Calif., two days after Thanksgiving to take part in the Stanford Duals. There, UVU will face No. 13 Nebraska, Bakersfield and the host Cardinal.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.