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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 round.

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 second.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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