Wyoming rides to West Region championship
Sleep deprivation didn't seem to be too much of a problem for the University of Wyoming on Sunday.
Travel issues kept the Cowboys from arriving in Cedar Falls for the West Region championships six hours before weigh-ins, but the lack of a good night's sleep couldn't keep Mark Branch's squad from winning the regional championship at the McLeod Center at the University of Northern Iowa.
Wyoming crowned four champions and outdistanced host Northern Iowa 93.5-76. Shane Onufer, Patrick Martinez, Joe LeBlanc and Alfonso Hernandez swept through with titles from 165-197.
LeBlanc, a three-time All-American, avenged a loss to Northern Iowa's Ryan Loder in last year's final with a 5-4 victory at 184 pounds.
"I just felt like I needed to get that match out of the way" said LeBlanc. "Have a good solid performance here to set me up for the national tournament. Should be sitting pretty good in the bracket. You have to win the big ones like that, the close ones, you have to grind them out. It's a great match to have going into the national tournament; A good, close one-point match."
LeBlanc admitted he was somewhat tentative going in against Loder.
"He's a stud. He's got a lot of top-ten wins the last two years. Part of the problem is I kind of slowed down my offense at the start of the third period. I felt like I didn't end the third period like I should have. Turned out alright I guess."
Onufer repeated as champion, defeating Northern Colorado's Gabe Burak with an 8-0 major decision.
"It feels good winning it again" said Onufer. "Gabe's a tough kid. I really had to be on my A-game and wrestle well."
Onufer credit's Branch for helping turn him into a winner.
"It's been a good experience, I'm really fortunate for Mark Branch coming here and doing what he has for our program. I'm happy. It's good to be a Cowboy."
Martinez returns to the NCAA championships after winning the championship at 174 pounds with a 7-3 win over Air Force's Clay Gable, while Hernandez won his first championship after missing time over the last two years with a back injury.
Hernandez majored Northern Colorado's Nick Bayer to pick up the automatic berth into the NCAA Division I championships in two weeks in St. Louis.
"I'm just really thankful I had an opportunity to do all this and have great workout partners" said Hernandez. "Joe and Pat and L.J., same thing with the other guys in the room. It's just been really great. One word to describe it all is thankful."
Hernandez was unsure of what to truly expect after coming back from the injury, but his confidence remained high.
"I expected to do something big coming in, if I hadn't I'd be disappointed. I'm still not satisfied. I expect more and am going to go out there and keep on thriving" he said.
Host Northern Iowa crowned three champions - Joe Colon at 133, Levi Wolfensperger at 141 pounds and heavyweight Blayne Beale.
Colon was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler, while Wolfensperger picked up the Gorriaran Award and avenged losses to Chase Smith of Wyoming and Casey Cruz of Northern Colorado, whom Wolfensperger beat in the finals in the first tiebreaker.
North Dakota State's Trent Sprenkle and Steven Monk won titles at 125 and 157 pounds, while Air Force's Cole VonOhlen won at 149 pounds.
Sprenkle moved to 2-1 on the year against Wyoming's Michael Martinez with a 4-2 victory in the finals at 125. Monk topped equally funky David Bonin of Northern Iowa 4-0.
VonOhlen moved up to 149 pounds this year and defeated Utah Valley's lone qualifier, Josh Wilson, 4-1 in the finals.
NCAA WEST REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS
McLeod Center, University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa
1. Wyoming 93.5; 2. Northern Iowa 76; 3. North Dakota State 51.5; 4. Air Force 50.5; 5. Utah Valley 43.5; 6. Northern Colorado 36.5; 7. South Dakota State 5
125- Trent Sprenkle (North Dakota State) DEC Michael Martinez (Wyoming) 4-2
133- Joe Colon (Northern Iowa) MD Zach Zehner (Wyoming) 9-1.
141- Levi Wolfensperger (Northern Iowa) DEC Casey Cruz (Northern Colorado) 2-1, TB1
149- Cole VonOhlen (Air Force) DEC Josh Wilson (Utah Valley) 4-1
157- Steven Monk (North Dakota State) DEC David Bonin (Northern Iowa) 4-0.
165- Shane Onufer (Wyoming) MD Gabe Burak (Northern Colorado) 8-0
174- Patrick Martinez (Wyoming) DEC Clay Gable (Air Force) 7-3
184- Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) DEC Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa) 5-4.
197- Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming) MD Nick Bayer (Northern Colorado) 12-4
285- Blayne Beale (Northern Iowa) DEC L.J. Helbig (Wyoming) 7-4.
True Second Place Matches
125- Michael Martinez (Wyoming) DEC Greg Rinker (Air Force) 9-8.
149- Josh Wilson (Utah Valley) DEC Mark Erickson (North Dakota State) 6-1
174- Clay Gable (Air Force) DEC Tyler Johnson (North Dakota State) 8-4
285- Not contested
Third Place Matches
125- Greg Rinker (Air Force) DEC Colby Christensen (Utah Valley) 12-11
133- Tyler Untrauer (Air Force) DEC Blake Mangum (Utah Valley) 10-6.
141- Avery Garner (Utah Valley) MD Dustin Walraven (South Dakota State) 15-6.
149- Mark Erickson (North Dakota State) DEC Justin Gonzalez (Northern Colorado) 3-1, SV
157- Josh Kreimier (Air Force) DEC Andy McCulley (Wyoming) 5-3, SV
165- Ethan Smith (Utah Valley) FALL Riley Banach (Northern Iowa) 2:38.
174- Tyler Johnson (North Dakota State) DEC Monte Schmalhaus (Utah Valley) 4-2, SV
184- Mac Stoll (North Dakota State) DEC Greg Isley (Air Force) 13-10
197- Josh Mohr (Air Force) DEC Brian Chamberlain (Utah Valley) 9-4
285- Evan Knutson (North Dakota State) DEC Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley) 2-1, TB1
Gorriaran Award: Levi Wolfensperger, Northern Iowa
Outstanding Wrestler: Joe Colon, Northern Iowa
Coach of the Year: Mark Branch, Wyoming
NCAA Automatic Qualifiers
Trent Sprenkle (North Dakota State)
Michael Martinez (Wyoming)
Joe Colon (Northern Iowa)
Zach Zehner (Wyoming)
Levi Wolfensperger (Northern Iowa)
Cole VonOhlen (Air Force)
Josh Wilson (Utah Valley)
Steven Monk (North Dakota State)
David Bonin (Northern Iowa)
Josh Kriemier (Air Force)
Shane Onufer (Wyoming)
Gabe Burak (Northern Colorado)
Patrick Martinez (Wyoming)
Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming)
Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa)
Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming)
Blayne Beale (Northern Iowa)