Cowboy Wrestlers Send Four Automatic Qualifiers to Nationals

March 7, 2009

GREELEY, Colo. -

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Four Cowboys won individual titles and freshman Jacob Scharbrough pinned his opponent in his third place match to give the University of Wyoming wrestling team a shot at the NCAA West Regional and Western Wrestling Conference team title on Saturday night in Greeley, Colo., at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

However, the fate of UW's league title hopes depended on the heavyweight from South Dakota State to win a match against Northern Iowa and when that did not happen the Cowboys lost by one and a half points to the Panthers.

Wyoming got individual titles at four weight classes from three redshirt freshmen and one junior. Michael Martinez won at 125 pounds, junior Cory VomBaur at 133, No. 18-ranked Shane Onufer at 174 and No. 8 Joe LeBlanc at 184 pounds. As a team the `Pokes took second place with 92.5 points, just behind UNI who totaled 94.

Winners of the NCAA West Regional automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship, to be held March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person next week to select the remaining at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 11.

Five Cowboys wrestled in the finals, the four champions and junior Alex Rieder at 165 pounds, who placed second. The other five UW student-athletes all competed in the consolation finals. Both Wyoming and Northern Iowa had four champions, but the Panthers held a 2-4 edge in head-to-head match-ups with the Cowboys.

The No. 22-ranked Panthers have now won the team regional title for 24 straight seasons. This was the 10th year (since 2000) that Wyoming has qualified for the NCAA Championships through the West Regional Tournament. UW has now finished in second place three times, 2004, 2006 and now 2009. The Cowboys were undefeated in the WWC during the regular season and claimed a share of the league dual championship along with Northern Iowa.

Behind UNI and UW in the tournament team scoring were Northern Colorado 70.5, North Dakota State 39.5, South Dakota State 24.5 and Air Force at 12.5.

"We didn't decide the team title when we had a chance in head-to-head matches with Northern Iowa," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "We ended up rooting for another team to win and that is not a good way to win titles. No one is happy with second place and we still have a long ways to go. This was a big learning lesson for this team and hopefully it helps mature us. It was however, a step in the right direction for the growth of this program.

"It was not a surprise to me at all that we had four individual champions. They all wrestled well and earned their spots at Nationals. They took any decision making out of the hands of the NCAA selection committee and made certain they were going to St. Louis."

Martinez was the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds and started the event with two major decisions before meeting Northern Colorado's Tony Mustari in the finals. In a low-scoring match, all Martinez would need was one takedown at 5:45 in the third period to seal his 3-2 decision. He now has a record of 37-9 this season.

VomBaur was also a No. 1 seed at 133, beating Derek Gillespie (AFA), by major decision, 10-2, as well as Brett Bahe (UNCo) in the finals by major decision, 11-2. He is now a three-time NCAA Tournament qualifier.

After a narrow loss to Kenny Hashimoto (UNCo), 6-5 in the opening round at 141 pounds, Cowboy Cole Dallaserra would rally to win two matches in the back draw and get a third place trophy.

Senior Eric Coxbill was 3-1 at 157 pounds and also took third place. His NCAA Tournament hopes were dashed when he lost on a last-second takedown to Tyson Reiner of UNI, 4-3.

In the 165-pound weight class, Wyoming's Alex Rieder earned himself a match-up with No. 5-ranked Moza Fay (UNI) in the finals by defeating Tyler Johnson (NDSU), 8-7. Rieder gave all he had in a 19-8 loss to Fay, the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler, and placed second.

UW's No.18-ranked Shane Onufer (174 lbs) defeated Adam Aho (NDSU), by fall at 6:32, then beat Scott Elliott (SDSU), by decision, 10-4. In the finals against Stephen Crozier (AFA) he would earn a tough 14-6 major decision for the title. Onufer is now 42-9 this season, which is fifth on UW's All-Time Single-Season Victories list.

No. 8-nationally ranked and the event No. 1 seed Joe LeBlanc would garner another individual weight class title for Wyoming at 184 pounds. In his first match he beat Kenny Moenkedick (NDSU) by technical fall, 21-6 at 5:39. He then used a takedown and a reversal towards a 6-2 decision in the finals match with No. 15-ranked Alex Dolly (UNI). LeBlanc now has a season record of 40-6, which ties him for sixth on UW's All-Time Single-Season Victories list with Mike Hamel (1985-86).

At 197 pounds, UW's Alfonso Hernandez was the No. 4 seed and lost a heartbreaking sudden-victory overtime decision to No. 13-ranked Andrew Anderson (UNI), 3-1 in the opening round. He then went 2-1 for the remainder of the tournament and placed third. Hernandez had a true second-place match with Tyler Sorenson of SDSU, which could have earned him a spot at Nationals, but lost by decision, 8-1.

The Cowboys' heavyweight, No. 3 seed Jacob Scharbrough, got two big wins by way of fall for his team and placed third. He pinned Stephen Larson of Air Force and Tyler Hemmesch of NDSU, after losing to Jason Stripling (SDSU), 8-4 in his first match.

Following the conclusion of the event, Mark Branch was announced as the WWC Coach of the Year.

Wyoming Results, Place (Top-3)

125 pounds - No. 1 seed Michael Martinez, 1st place, Automatic NCAA bid
W - vs. Andrew Zwirlein (AFA), by major decision, 15-3
W - vs. Cruse Aaarhus (UNI), by major decision, 12-3
W - vs. Tony Mustari (UNCo), by decision, 3-2

133 pounds - No. 1 seed Cory VomBaur, 1st place, Automatic NCAA bid
W - vs. Derek Gillespie (AFA), by major decision, 10-2
W - vs. Brett Bahe (UNCo), by major decision, 11-2

141 pounds - No. 3 seed Cole Dallaserra, 3rd place
L - vs. Kenny Hashimoto (UNCo), by decision, 6-5
W - vs. Tyler Untrauer (AFA), by major decision, 14-5
W - vs. Gabriel Mooney (NDSU), by decision, 4-2

149 pounds - No. 4 seed Chase Smith
L - vs. Ryan Adams (NDSU), by decision, 10-4
L - vs. Trevor Kittleson (UNI), by SV decision, 4-2 (OT)

157 pounds - No. 2 seed Eric Coxbill, 3rd place
W - vs. Weston Blasius (SDSU), by major decision, 8-0
L - vs. Tyson Reiner (UNI), by decision, 4-3
W - vs. Joseph Stafford (AFA), by decision, 4-1
W - vs. Vincent Salminen (NDSU), by decision, 10-4

165 pounds - No. 3 seed Alex Rieder, 2nd place
W - vs. Tyler Johnson (NDSU), by decision, 8-7
L - vs. No. 5 Moza Fay (UNI), by major decision, 19-8

174 pounds - No. 2 seed Shane Onufer (No. 18 ranked), 1st place, Automatic NCAA bid
W - vs. Adam Aho (NDSU), by fall, 6:32
W - vs. Scott Elliott (SDSU), by decision, 10-4
W - vs. Stephen Crozier (AFA), by major decision, 14-6

184 pounds - No. 1 seed Joe LeBlanc (No. 8 ranked), 1st place, Automatic NCAA bid
W - vs. Kenny Moenkedick (NDSU), by technical fall (NF), 21-6, 5:39
W - vs. No. 15 Alex Dolly (UNI), by decision, 6-2

197 pounds - No. 4 seed Alfonso Hernandez, 3rd place
L - vs. No. 13 ranked Andrew Anderson (UNI), by SV decision, 3-1 (OT)
W - vs. James Ciccone (AFA), by decision, 5-2
W - vs. Eric Brennan (UNCo), by decision, 6-4
L - vs. Tyler Sorenson (SDSU), by decision, 8-1, True Second Place match

Heavyweight - No. 3 seed Jacob Scharbrough, 3rd place
L - vs. Jason Stripling (SDSU), by decision, 8-4
W - vs. Stephen Larson (AFA), by fall, 4:37
W - vs. Tyler Hemmesch (NDSU), by fall, 2:21

Outstanding Wrestler: Moza Fay, Northern Iowa

Most Pins: Alex Dolly, Northern Iowa

Coach of the Year: Mark Branch, Wyoming