Junior 285-pounder Adam Fager and senior 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus led the way for the Utah Valley University wrestling team Monday as they placed seventh and eighth, respectively, at the 51st annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. The 2013 Midlands Championships were held Sunday and Monday at Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
After losing to the top seed in the quarterfinals Sunday night, Fager rebounded nicely Monday by topping Northern Iowa's Blaize Cabell, 6-2, to guarantee himself of a top-eight finish at the tournament. In the consolation semis, the eight seed and 13th-ranked Fager then dropped a tightly contested overtime bout by a mere point, 6-5, to Steve Dwyer (Beebe) who was a former two-time All-American at Nebraska to enter the seventh-place contest.
Fager then took the seventh-place bout via medical forfeit over Illinois' Chris Lopez to finish his 2013 Midlands run with a 4-2 record and a seventh place finish.
"Adam solidified his position as one of the top 15 wrestlers in the country over the past two days," head coach Greg Williams said. "His two losses were to the top seed and to former two-time All-American from Nebraska. He has a couple of areas to improve on before March, but if he's able to correct those than he will be in a great position to make a run at the platform in Oklahoma."
After winning his final three matches Sunday, Schmalhaus continued right where he left off Monday by defeating Jordan Wohfert of Michigan State, 5-2, to guarantee himself a spot on the platform at the prominent tournament. The Wolverine senior then fell in the consolation semis to the No. 9 seed from Wisconsin Scott Liegel, 5-1, to enter the seventh-place match.
In his seventh-place bout against Iowa's Alex Meyer, Schmalhaus looked strong and full of energy, but the referee called a touch fall on a scramble in the closing seconds of the first period to give Meyer the win over the UVU 174-pounder.
Schmalhaus finished his 2013 Midlands run with an eighth place finish and a 4-3 record.
"Monte put together a stretch of some the best matches that he has wrestled in his career," Williams said. "He should be proud of his performance here. He is very close to breaking through to another level."
With two placers at Midlands, UVU set a new program high at the top-notch collegiate tournament.
Utah Valley sophomore 197-pounder Derek Thomas also advanced to Monday after going 3-1 on Sunday. But Thomas had his Midlands run end just one win shy of placement as he dropped his opener Monday to the No. 8 seed Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm), who is a former All-American Elmhurst College, by a score of 9-2.
Thomas went 3-2 at this year's Midlands Championships.
Five other wrestlers competed for the Wolverines at the two-day tournament but had their runs cut short as they were all eliminated from competition Sunday.
As a team, the Wolverines tied for 15th place out of 47 teams with 26.5 points.
UVU will now return to Orem to host its first home dual of the season on Jan. 9 against Grand Canyon. The Wolverines will then remain home to hold the seventh annual UVU Open two days later.
Utah Valley's results from Monday's Midlands Championships
174: Monte Schmalhaus (UVU) Dec. Jordan Wohfert (UN - Mich. St.), 5-2
174: No. 9 Scott Liegel (Wisconsin) Dec. Monte Schmalhaus (UVU), 5-1
174: Alex Meyer (Iowa) Fall Monte Schmalhaus (UVU), 2:54
197: No. 8 Joe Rau (Minn. Storm) Dec. Derek Thomas (UVU), 9-2
285: No. 8 Adam Fager (UVU) Dec. Blaize Cabell (UNI), 6-2
285: Steve Dwyer (Beebe) Dec. No. 8 Adam Fager (UVU), 6-5 (TB)
285: No. 8 Adam Fager (UVU) Med. Forfeit Chris Lopez (Illinois)
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.