(Argo Athletics Media Release)
GREAT FALLS — The long Christmas break got the best of No. 6 University of Providence wrestling for the second straight year, as the team lost its first dual to an NAIA opponent since January 4, 2017, falling to No. 12 Southern Oregon University 21-18 at home. UP won five of the 10 matches but didn’t earn the bonus points that have made them a dual juggernaut in 2017-18.
One of the problems that were a factor in the team’s loss to Menlo after last season’s Christmas break, making weight, reared its head again, with UP’s 125 wrestler failing to stay make the cut. That absence gave SOU a 6-0 lead right away and that would prove to be crucial in the final score.
Based on national rankings, the Raiders were supposed to hold the advantage in the first half of the dual, while the back half was to favor the Argos. That held true, with SOU winning five of the first six matches, including a technical fall (18-2) win at 141 from No. 4 Devin Poppen.
The 5 points from Poppen’s and an extra point from a major decision win for SOU at 157 put pressure on UP’s top wrestlers to not just win their matches but to do so with big scores.
First up was No. 5 Shonn Roberts, but his opponent was no pushover, facing No. 10 Chandler Michael. Michael did a good job of keeping Roberts from scoring in bunches but was never able to generate any offense of his own. Roberts got 1 takedown in each of the three periods, but couldn’t pull away in a 7-3 decision.
No. 4 Adrian Lyons-Lopez and No. 7 Randy Keesler each got a shot at an unranked wrestler in their respective weight classes. Both wrestlers won, but neither was able to earn the needed bonus points with Lyons-Lopez win a 6-3 decision, and Keesler winning in overtime 11-9.
The 197 match was a chance at redemption for 2016-17 All-American John Hensley. The redshirt-sophomore started the year as one of the top ranked NAIA wrestlers at 197, but a slow start to the year has seen him slip to number 15.
He got a chance to start the new year on a much better note, matching up against No. 3 Tanner Fischer. Hensley and Fischer proved to be so evenly matched that only 1 point was scored in the first three periods. That 1 point was an escape from Hensley in the second period, but that point was matched by a point for ride time by Fischer at the end of regulation.
The 1-1 tie brought the match to overtime and the first extra period was more of the same scoreless grappling. Hensley started the second period, a 30 second round, on top and gave up an escape. That meant he had to match the feat to keep overtime going, or better it to end the match.
Starting on the bottom, Hensley turned around a pin attempt and earned a reversal to give him the upset win over Fischer 3-2.
While that win was huge for Hensley’s individual season, it sealed UP’s fate in terms of the immediate dual. Even 6 points from a forfeit win at 285 left the Argos trailing 21-18 by the end.
The loss brings the team’s dual record to 6-3 on the year, and things don’t get any easier from there. UP almost immediately hops on a plane to travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals. The dual tournament of the best teams in the country will begin for the Argos with a first round matchup against No. 10 Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) on January 4 at 10 a.m. MST.