Jan. 27, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Despite posting one of the biggest match wins of the season, the University of Wyoming wrestling team lost a tough conference dual to North Dakota State on Sunday, 22-15.
Perhaps fueled by the emotion of Senior Day, No. 14 Wyoming (7-4 overall, 2-1 Western Wrestling Conference) got a big lift in the first match of the afternoon when unranked UW sophomore Tyler Cox beat North Dakota State's Trent Sprenkle, ranked sixth, in the 125-pound bout.
Cox won the 50th match of his career after he went up 2-0 in the second period, and never looked back, beating Sprenkle 7-2. It was Cox's second win of the season over a ranked opponent, and first career win over a top-10 opponent. The sophomore has won 13 of his last 14 matches.
"That was a huge win for him at this time of year," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said of Cox. "There are a lot of implications on conference seeding and conference qualification (for the NCAA Championships)."
The Bison earned wins at the next three weights to take a 10-3 advantage, but 13th-ranked sophomore Andy McCulley brought UW to within a point with a dominant showing. McCulley, who leads Wyoming's starters with 10 pins, stuck NDSU's Tanner Carlisle at the 4:33 mark of the 157-pound tilt to cut the lead to 10-9. UW would get no closer, however, and lost three of the next five bouts.
The Pokes came away with contributions from two seniors, as Helbig and Hernandez each won their matches. Helbig avenged an early-season loss to Kurtis Julson in a 3-2 decision, while the fourth-ranked Hernandez took home a 7-4 decision over NDSU's Kallen Kleinschmidt. With the victory, Hernandez moved into sole possession of 10th on the UW all-time wins list with 112 for his career.
"I was really proud of L.J. With him being a senior, you want to see those kinds of wins to give us a chance to be in the match. He's a unique kid. He's definitely made his impact on this program. I was glad to see him go out with a win. And (Hernandez) wrestled a hard match and was really grinding in there.
"I wish I could've wrestled all the seniors. I get a little choked up with every class, just realizing the journey they've traveled."
The last time the Cowboys lost a dual to a current WWC opponent was 2006, when the Bison defeated Wyoming 18-15. Branch is now 24-2 in WWC duals. Now in his fifth season, he had only one loss in league action prior to Sunday, a 19-13 defeat in 2011 at the hands of Northern Iowa, which now is in the MAC.
"We knew it was going to be a hard battle," Branch said. "They are a good team. On paper, we knew that we were going to have some upsets to have an opportunity. We had some close matches that we couldn't find a way to win and that makes a difference in these duals.
"We get to see them here in March at the conference tournament, and we have a lot of work to do."
The Cowboys have a short week of preparation, and will battle conference foe Northern Colorado on the road Wednesday in Greeley, Colo. The first match begins at 7 p.m. in the Butler-Hancock Pavilion.
125 pounds: Tyler Cox (UW) dec. No. 6 Trent Sprenkle (NDSU), 7-2 / Wyoming 3, NDSU 0
133: Josh Rodriguez (NDSU) dec. Kasey Garnhart (UW), 7-4 / Wyoming 3, NDSU 3
141: Mark Erickson (NDSU) maj. dec. Zach Zehner (UW), 15-5 / NDSU 7, Wyoming 3
149: Joe Garner (NDSU) dec. Brandon Richardson (UW), 6-5 / NDSU 10, Wyoming 3
157: No. 13 Andy McCulley (UW) fall (3:33) Tanner Carlisle (NDSU) / NDSU 10, Wyoming 9
165: No. 6 Steven Monk (NDSU) fall (1:45) Dakota Friesth (UW) / NDSU 16, Wyoming 9
174: L.J. Helbig (UW) dec. Kurtis Julson (NDSU), 3-2 / NDSU 16, Wyoming 12
184: Mac Stoll (NDSU) dec. Shane Woods (UW), 4-1 / NDSU 19, Wyoming 12
197: No. 4 Alfonso Hernandez (UW) dec. Kallen Kleinschmidt (NDSU), 7-4 / NDSU 19, Wyoming 15
285: Evan Knutson (NDSU) dec. Leland Pfeifer (UW), 10-4 / NDSU 22, Wyoming 15