Jan. 3, 2012
The wins don't come much bigger - or more exciting - than Wyoming's on Tuesday in the Arena-Auditorium, as the Cowboy wrestling team defeated ninth-ranked Oklahoma 18-17 in a dual that came down to the last match.
It was a win of historic proportion for UW, which had lost in each of the previous 16 meetings with the Sooners in a series that began in 1955. The Pokes now are 1-14-2 all-time versus Oklahoma. The Sooners rode into town with a season record of 3-1, with wins over Missouri and Iowa State, while Wyoming won its first dual of the season to move to 1-2 overall.
"It's a great win. I knew we could compete with them, but right there at the end, you don't know if you're going to win, tie or lose," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "I thought it was sloppy and ugly, but sometimes getting over hurdles, you knock them down. You don't always clear them with a breeze. We knocked down the hurdle more than we cleared it, but we did get past it."
Sophomore Pat Martinez sealed the Wyoming victory with his bonus-point win in the 174-pound bout, dominating OU's Nolan McBryde in a 15-2 major decision. It came at an opportune time, as Wyoming entered the last match down three points. Martinez's win, worth four team points, vaulted UW to 18 points, one point better than Oklahoma.
Senior Shane Onufer gave Martinez the impetus to perform well, as he drew Wyoming to within striking distance on the scoreboard with his 7-3 win over No. 18 Bubby Graham in the 165-pound match. Onufer moved to 17-1 on the season with the win, and his decision gave Wyoming a fighting chance heading into the last match with the score OU 17, Wyoming 14.
The dual began on a high note for UW, as third-ranked senior Joe LeBlanc (184) won his second-straight match by technical fall, beating No. 16 Erich Schmidtke 19-3. LeBlanc now is 17-1 on the season, and 4-1 versus ranked opponents.
Junior Alfonso Hernandez (197 pounds) kept the momentum rolling, taking out OU's Keldrick Hall with a comeback 6-5 decision. Hernandez's win, his team-leading 25th of the year, made the team score Wyoming 8, Oklahoma 0.
But OU showed its strength in the heavyweight match, as Kyle Colling took down Wyoming's L.J. Helbig with a 13-3 major decision, which cut Wyoming's lead to 8-4 after three matches.
Senior Michael Martinez nabbed his 16th win of the season at 125 pounds, beating No.5 Jarrod Patterson in a thrilling 4-2 decision which came in the second tiebreaker period. Patterson took a 2-1 lead in the first tiebreaker, but a caution infraction and a stall penalty against Patterson gave Martinez a 3-2 advantage. He added an escape point with 5 seconds remaining to pad the lead. Martinez now is 2-3 versus ranked opponents this year and his victory gave Wyoming an 11-4 lead on the scoreboard.
"Michael wrestled smart and stayed in position," Branch said. "It was good for him in the long run because he hasn't been getting the respect he deserves. Having a quality win over a top-five guy really sets you up for qualification (to the NCAA Championships)."
The Sooners again fought back, as No. 12 Jordan Keller beat UW's Zach Zehner, ranked 14th, in the 133-pound battle in a tough 2-1 decision. No. 7 Kendric Maple took down UW's Mike Hamel at 141 pounds in a 6-1 decision, and No. 12 Nick Lester beat Brandon Richardson in an 8-1 decision.
OU would earn one more victory in the 157-pound match as No. 11 Matt Lester won by major decision over Dakota Friesth, 16-4. The four straight wins gave OU the 17-14 advantage, but the Sooners wouldn't score the rest of the way.
"We had such tight battles in several matches that could've went the other way and we could've been sitting here, disgusted," Branch said. "I'm happy we got a win. In some of those individual matches, although I didn't like what I saw, (Wyoming wrestlers) got their hand raised and we've emphasized that."
The Pokes have a short break before they hit the road for the next test, versus Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., on Jan. 15.
184 pounds: No. 3 Joe LeBlanc (UW) technical fall No. 16 Erich Schmidtke (OU), 19-3
197: No. 12 Alfonso Hernandez (UW) dec. Keldrick Hall (OU), 6-5
Hwt: Kyle Colling (OU) major dec. L.J. Helbig (UW), 13-3
125: No. 17 Michael Martinez (UW) dec. No. 5 Jarrod Patterson (OU), 4-2 (TB2)
133: No. 12 Jordan Keller (OU) dec. No. 14 Zach Zehner (UW), 2-1
141: No. 7 Kendric Maple (OU) dec. Mike Hamel (UW), 6-1
149: No. 12 Nick Lester (OU) dec. Brandon Richardson (UW), 8-1
157: No. 11 Matt Lester (OU) major dec. Dakota Friesth (UW), 16-4
165: No. 6 Shane Onufer (UW) dec. No. 18 Bubby Graham (OU), 7-3
174: Patrick Martinez (UW) major dec. Nolan McBryde (OU), 15-4