USAFA, Colo. - The Air Force wrestling team closed out its first home stand of the season with a pair of dual victories, defeating Northern Iowa, 19-18, and New Mexico Highlands, 42-0. With the wins, the Falcons, rated 25th in the latest InterMat rankings, improve to 5-1 overall on the season.
Competing without its two nationally ranked wrestlers this weekend, Air Force faced a tough challenge against perennial West Region powerhouse Northern Iowa to start the afternoon. The Panthers scored a decision and a major decision in the first two duals to take a 7-0 lead before Josh Mohr (Sr., Pewaukee, Wis.) earned an 8-2 decision over Blaize Cabell at 197 pounds to put the Falcons on the board. Sophomore heavyweight Bentley Alsup (Missoula, Mont.) then gave Air Force its second-straight win with a 5-3 decision against 2012 NCAA qualifier Blayne Beale.
At 125 pounds, freshman Mitch Brown (Payson, Utah), wrestling in place of 11th-ranked Josh Martinez, rebounded from a 7-0 first-period deficit against Ryan Jauch with a strong third period. Scoring three takedowns in the final stanza, Brown secured a fall with just 24 seconds on the clock to put the Falcons on top in the team scoring, 12-7.
Northern Iowa regained the advantage with wins by nationally ranked wrestlers in the next two weight classes, including a narrow 7-5 decision by No. 12 Levi Wolfensperger over Dylan Hyder (Yelm, Wash.). After the Panthers scored a technical fall at 149 pounds to take a 19-12 lead in the team scoring, the Falcons needed wins in each of the last two bouts to have a chance at capturing the victory.
The 157-pound match featured a pair of familiar foes, with Josh Kreimier (Jr., Fort Collins, Colo.) facing off against the Panthers' David Bonin. The two NCAA qualifiers, who have been listed in various rankings throughout the season, wrestled in a pair of overtime contests last season, with Bonin earning both wins. Sunday's match looked to be another close battle, as the only point in the first two periods was an escape from Bonin. However, Kreimier took control in the third period, scoring an early reversal to take the lead.
Kreimier worked his way into a pinning situation in the final 30 seconds of regulation, but the action was stopped for an injury timeout, giving Kreimier a four-point near fall with 20 seconds on the clock. After Bonin chose the down position on the restart, Kreimier ended the match with a reversal and added 1:29 of riding time for the 9-1 major decision. Additionally, Northern Iowa was deducted a team point for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the bench, cutting the Panthers' lead to 18-16.
Needing a win at 165 pounds to secure the Falcons' team victory, sophomore Jesse Stafford (Loomis, Calif.) got out to a strong start against Jarrett Jensen, scoring a takedown and a reversal in the first two periods to gain a 4-0 advantage. Stafford extended his lead to 6-0 with a third-period takedown before holding on to the 7-3 decision. The win gave Air Force a 19-18 team victory, the Falcons' first over the Panthers since 2002.
"It was a good day for the program," stated Air Force head coach Joel Sharratt. "We had the same 10 guys as Friday night, who bounced back from a tough dual loss against Oregon State; they showed some character. We got a big spark at 125, with Mitch Brown staying in the fight for seven minutes--getting down early and wrestling back. Josh Kreimier--against a guy who's ranked top 20 in the country, who he's had some battles with back and forth--came out, wrestled well and kept his head in the match for the whole seven minutes. There was a great result there."
"Could we have wrestled a little bit harder, won a couple more positions and put more points on the board? I think we could have," continued Sharratt. "But I think we had a good showing overall. It's also awesome, from the crowd perspective, to have the superintendent and the commandant out here supporting the guys. Seeing them here, our guys really appreciate it--it meant a lot having them out here to support us in the program victory."
Air Force followed its win over Northern Iowa with a shutout of New Mexico Highlands. Alsup, Brown and Kreimier all scored falls against the Cowboys, while Mohr, Carter McElhany (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Gabe Martinez (Sr., Falcon, Colo.) both registered major decisions. Earning decisions for the Falcons were Scott Reilly (Fr., Stafford, Va.), Devin Hightower (Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.), Hyder and Logan Burch (Sr., Colorado Springs, Colo.), who scored the winning takedown with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Also on Sunday, the Falcons' JV squad earned a 28-15 victory over New Mexico Highlands. Evan Gros (Jr., Lake Orion, Mich.), Cody Hancock (So., Wrightwood, Calif.) and Andrew White (Fr., Chehalis, Wash.) registered falls, freshman Zach Stepan scored a major decision and Cody Davis (Jr., The Woodlands, Texas) and Adam Jackson (Fr., Rosemount, Minn.) earned decisions for the Falcons.
Air Force heads to California for its next three duals, as it faces Stanford and Menlo College on Friday, Jan. 18, while visiting Cal Poly on Sunday, Jan. 20.
No. 25 Air Force 19, Northern Iowa 18
174: Cody Caldwell (UNI) dec. Tyler Mergen, 6-3
184: No. 6 Ryan Loder (UNI) maj. dec. Devin Hightower, 12-2
197: Josh Mohr (AF) dec. Blaize Cabell, 8-2
285: Bentley Alsup (AF) dec. Blayne Beale, 5-3
125: Mitch Brown (AF) fall Ryan Jauch (UNI), 6:36
133: No. 12 Levi Wolfensperger (UNI) dec. Dylan Hyder, 7-5
141: No. 15 Joey Lazor (UNI) maj. dec. Carter McElhany, 11-1
149: Bart Reiter (UNI) tech fall Logan Burch, 19-3 (5:49)
157: Josh Kreimier (AF) maj. dec. David Bonin, 9-1
165: Jesse Stafford (AF) vs. Jarrett Jensen, 7-3
*one team point deducted from Northern Iowa for unsportsmanlike conduct by the bench
No. 25 Air Force 42, New Mexico Highlands 0
174: Scott Reilly (AF) dec. Easton Hargrave, 8-6
184: Devin Hightower (AF) dec. Igor Gomzin, 2-0
197: Josh Mohr (AF) maj. dec. Francisco Bernal, 13-3
285: Bentley Alsup (AF) fall RK Rockhill, 3:45
125: Mitch Brown (AF) fall Erick Rangel, 2:20
133: Dylan Hyder (AF) dec. Austin Morrow, 10-6
141: Carter McElhany (AF) maj. dec. Dan Gaylor, 10-2
149: Logan Burch (AF) dec. Mariano Montoya, 12-10
157: Josh Kreimier (AF) fall Juan Alvarado, 2:53
165: Gabe Martinez (AF) maj. dec. Travis Saxon, 11-0