Wrestlers Make UVU History
(March 18, 2010) OMAHA, Neb. — Utah Valley's Benjamin Kjar
(125 pounds), Flint Ray (133), and Brad Darrington(174)
all made Utah Valley University Athletic history Thursday
as the three became the school's first athletes to compete
for an NCAA Division I National Championship as the trio
competed at the Division I Wrestling Championship at the
Qwest Center in Omaha.
Kjar, the No. 12 seed, Ray, and Darrington all went 1-1 on
day number one and will continue wrestling on Friday.
"It's a great feeling to be here," UVU head coach Greg
Williams said. "Our goal was to not just be happy with
going to the conference tournament but to get some guys to
nationals. We are very pleased to have three guys here and
deep down I am very proud that all of them picked up wins
and are still alive. Today showed that we still have some
things to work on and hopefully we can get some of those
corrected before tomorrow."
Kjar was the first Wolverine to wrestle on the opening day
of the NCAA Championships as he took on Harvard's Steven
Keith. Kjar took control early as he scored a takedown
midway through the first period. In the second he
continued his quest to become an All-American by scoring
an escape to take a 3-0 lead. Kjar then escaped again in
the final period to take a 4-0 lead with 55 seconds left.
Kjar held Keith scoreless as he dominated his opening
bout, winning by decision (4-0), to advance to the second
In the round of 16 in Session II, Kjar matched up with a
familiar opponent from Iowa State in the No. 5 seed Andrew
Long. The pair matched each other hold-for-hold, as the
bout was scoreless through the first two periods. In the
third, Long took a 1-0 advantage as he picked up an escape
point. Long managed to hold on and win the match by the
final score of 4-0. With the loss Kjar drops to the
wrestleback bracket and will have to get on a roll Friday
as he could have up to as many as four matches. His first
matchup will be against Ohio State's Nikko Triggas.
Next up for UVU was the unseeded junior Flint Ray. Ray had
a tough task ahead of him as he tried to upend the
defending National Champion from Michigan State, Franklin
Gomez, in his first round matchup. In a hard fought first
period, the No. 3 seed Gomez scored a takedown towards the
end of the period to go up 2-0. Gomez then continued as he
scored an escape and a takedown to go up 5-0 in the
Ray then answered as he countered Gomez's onslaught
scoring a reversal right before the end of the second
period. Gomez then gave Ray an escape to open the third
cutting the deficit to only two. Gomez then connected with
a takedown and with riding time the defending champion
held on to defeat Ray by decision, 8-4. Ray gave the
heavily favored grappler a ride but with the loss he will
have a tough road ahead of him in the wrestleback bracket.
In his first wrestleback bracket match, Ray quickly fell
down 2-0 to Liberty's Joe Pantaleo in the first. Ray then
took off in the second period as he scored a quick escape,
followed with a takedown, and finished the period with a
three-point near fall on Pantaleo to go up 6-2. In the
final period he finished by scoring another takedown to
win the bout by decision, 8-2. With the victory Ray is
still alive and will be back in action against Steve Bell
of Maryland, the nine-seed, Friday morning.
Darrington's first bout of the championships was also
against a heavily favored competitor in Nebraska's Stephen
Dwyer, the No. 4 seed. The two went toe-to-toe and in the
first period Darrington an opportunity for a single-leg
takedown but he just couldn't finish it. Dwyer answered
though as he scored a late first takedown to go up 2-0. In
the second, Darrington flipped Dywer at the end of the
period and was very close to tying the score with a
two-point reversal but the clock saved Dywer as the period
expired just before he could secure it.
In the third, Dywer took control as he picked up an escape
and a takedown to go up 5-0. The sophomore Darrington kept
fighting until the end but the former-All-American was too
much in the first round matchup as Darrington lost by
decision, 6-0. Now Darrington will have a tough road ahead
of him as he drops to the wrestleback bracket.
In UVU's final bout of day one Darrington went up against
Bucknell's Shane Riccio. Darrington took command early, as
he was trying to avenge an earlier season loss to Ricciio.
He quickly scored a takedown, which he immediately turned
into a pinning combination and a three-point near fall.
With Darrington leading 5-0, Riccio got on the board with
a reversal to trail only 5-2. Riccio then cut the lead to
5-3 with an escape to open the final period. Darrington
then controlled the rest of the bout, scoring a takedown
of his own to take a 7-3 lead with only a minute left.
Darrington held on to win 7-3 and will now wrestle Ben
Bennett from Central Michigan, the seven-seed, on Friday.
"I am pleased with how we wrestled today," Williams added.
"It's our first time here at the `Big Show' and in an
arena this big. I didn't feel that we were overwhelmed by
any of those things and I felt that we wrestled well. We
are not done. Tomorrow is another day and we'll start at
it again in the morning."
Friday's morning session, Session III, will begin at 8:30
a.m. (MT). Days two and three of the NCAA Division I
Wrestling Championships will be broadcasted by the ESPN
family of networks with ESPNU airing session's III, IV & V
and ESPN airing the finals or session VI. Thursday's
opening two session's can be seen online via NCAA.com
while Friday's session III and Saturday's (finals) session
VI can also be seen online at ESPN360.com.