University of Montevallo wins historic first home dual against Midway

Published 1:57 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO – For a couple of hours on Wednesday, Nov. 15, Trustmark Arena became wrestling heaven in Alabama as high school teams, local wrestling fans and members of the Montevallo community watched the Montevallo Falcons win their first ever home match over the Midway Eagles, 27-16.

“It’s incredible,” Montevallo coach Daniel Ownbey said. “Our guys wrestled tough, they wrestled hard and we beat a top 25 NAIA team who thought they were going to come in here and have a close match with us, and our guys went out there and they took it to then, and I’m so incredibly proud of them.”

The energy was electric even before the start as a large crowd for the Thompson vs. McAdory match that preceded it grew even larger and greeted the Falcons with a wall of noise that only grew as the night progressed.

“I think that was probably one of the best Division II crowds I’ve ever seen,” Ownbey said. “I’m super proud of it.”

Colt Brown started the night out strong for Montevallo by earning a technical fall as time wound down in the opening 125-pound match, beating Andrew Vogeler 19-3 at 5:45 in the match.

The Falcons’ lead automatically grew to 11-0 as former Thompson wrestler Gabe Hixenbaugh won his 133-pound match by forfeit due to his opponent missing weight.

However, Midway proved why it is one of the top 25 NAIA teams by surging to the lead.

Kyler Adams rolled to an 8-0 major decision over the Falcons’ Chad Strickland in the 141-pound match. Then, Trent Gilham came close to a victory to stop the bleeding, but he lost a 9-8 decision to his 149-pound opponent, Chris Sperin.

Montevallo then lost its 11-7 lead to Midway after Abe Hafez pinned Finley Jameson just 45 seconds into the match to put the Eagles up 13-11.

However, that was the closest Midway would come to victory as a trio of former Thompson wrestlers sealed the dual win for Montevallo.

Carson Freeman put on a show for his former teammates, cruising to a 11-2 major decision over Jabril Williams in the 165-pound match to reclaim the lead and swing the momentum back in the Falcons favor.

Freeman was proud to get a win in front of his friends and family cheering him on.

“I’ve never experienced something like this,” Freeman said. “It being this packed out, this loud, it was amazing.”

With the crowd now back in the match, Derek Hussey used the friendly fans to his advantage. As the fans chanted his name down the stretch, he gutted out a hard-fought 5-3 decision over Daylon Stafford to claim victory in the 174-pound match.

Then, the most electrifying moment of the night happened when Jeffery Tubbs took the mat against Michael Colligan in the 184-pound match.

Tubbs scored a pin just 1:26 into the first period to set the arena on fire and put the Falcons up 24-13 as the Warriors alumni went 4-0 on the night.

Mark Pennison nearly put the dual away with a technical fall in the 197-pound match, but David Emfinger surged back to put the pressure on Pennison.

However, Pennison prevailed in the end with a 15-13 decision to survive the onslaught and wrap up the victory for Montevallo, nullifying Midway’s Bryon Pierce’s 4-0 decision in the 285-pound match over Noah Todd.

After the win, Ownbey chalked up the big turnaround to his team’s conditioning and the Falcons using that to attack their opponents when they were tired, which he sees as a positive as the team grows and builds momentum ahead of the postseason in March.

“You can see it getting close to the end of the second, end of the third,” Ownbey said. “These guys were starting to break. They were starting to get tired, and our guys saw that and they knew to take advantage of it. The fact that they just went out there trusted the fact that they’re not going to get tired and the other guy will just put everything that we’ve been working for right on display for the whole nation to see.”

Montevallo will host its second and final home match of the season against in-state foe Huntingdon College on Tuesday, Jan. 30. While Ownbey was grateful for the thousands that showed up for the first match, he hopes to replicate that atmosphere going forward.

“I want to thank everyone who showed up tonight and showed out,” Ownbey said. “It was an absolutely incredible crowd, an electrical crowd, and I could not have asked for more. The only thing I can ask from this crowd is that they show back up on [January] 30th and give that same energy.”