Thrilling Final Round Highlights Wyoming's Fourth-Straight NCAA West Regional Crown

March 9, 2013


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The quest for four-straight NCAA West Regional team titles came down to the final matches Saturday in Laramie, as the University of Wyoming wrestling team battled hard to claim the team championship.

In front of 1,155 fans in the Arena-Auditorium, UW clawed back from an 11-point Session I deficit and came alive in the finals to total 79 team points, three points better than second-place North Dakota State. The Cowboys, with all 10 wrestlers in the consolation and championship finals, won nine of 10 bouts, but got some assistance from Utah Valley's heavyweight to keep NDSU out of the team lead in the last scoring bout.

The win marks four-consecutive West Regional victories for Wyoming and head coach Mark Branch. The event also served as the Western Wrestling Conference Championship. After Wyoming and North Dakota State, Utah Valley was third (70), Air Force was fourth and South Dakota State was fifth with 16.5 points.

"That's what I've been waiting to see all year, for all 10 guys to wrestle with their heart and wrestle for each other," Branch said. "We needed to be close to perfect today to win. We spent most of the tournament in fourth place. Going into the last session, you're thinking we're in deep trouble but we're not mathematically eliminated. It was cool to see these guys come together and wrestle for each other and fight their tails off."

Four Cowboys won their weight class, including senior McCade Ford at 141 pounds, senior L.J. Helbig at 174, sophomore Shane Woods at 184 and senior Alfonso Hernandez at 197, who won for the second-straight year. Two other UW grapplers are headed to nationals, including sophomore Brandon Richardson (third at 149) and sophomore Tyler Cox, who was third at 125. The six qualifiers represent the same total from 2011 and 2012. Nine Cowboys placed third or better in the event.

"You can go up and down the lineup to find inspiring performances," Branch said. "Cox coming back after a tough first-round loss and getting a pin, McCade Ford fighting from the third seed to get first, Brandon Richardson fighting from a fifth seed to get third and qualify for nationals, L.J. Helbig, Shane Woods, Hernandez. It was a team effort and we've preached that all year long. For it to finally happen, it certainly was the right time."

After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in person to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, who will be announced on March 13. All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Championships will be March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Wyoming results
125 pounds: Tyler Cox (2-1), Third place, NCAA Qualifier
Semifinals: Josh Martinez (AF) maj. dec. Cox, 16-8
Consolation wrestleback: Cox dec. Aaron Pickrel (SDSU), 8-6 SV1
Consolation final: Cox fall (6:27) Jade Rauser (UVU)

133: Kasey Garnhart (1-2), Fourth place
Quarterfinals: Chasen Tolbert (UVU) dec. Garnhart, 2-1
Consolation wrestleback: Garnhart dec. Brance Simms (SDSU), 5-4
Consolation final: Chasen Tolbert (UVU) dec. Garnhart, 4-0

141: McCade Ford (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
Semifinals: Ford dec. Mark Erickson (NDSU), 3-2
Finals: Ford dec. Avery Garner (UVU), 5-2

149: Brandon Richardson (2-1), Third place, NCAA Qualifier
Quarterfinals: Richardson dec. Joseph Garner (NDSU), 2-0
Semifinals: Cole VonOhlen (AF) tech. fall Richardson, 16-0
Consolation final: Richardson dec. Dustin Walraven (SDSU), 6-4

157: Andy McCulley (2-1), Third place
Semifinals: Cody Pack (SDSU) dec. McCulley, 5-4
Consolation semifinals: McCulley dec. Anthony Caputo (NDSU), 8-5
Consolation final: McCulley dec. Ethan Smith (UVU), 4-2 SV1

165: Dakota Friesth (2-1), Third place
Quarterfinals: Friesth dec. Joseph Brewster (SDSU), 8-4
Semifinals: Steven Monk (NDSU) tech. fall Friesth, 15-0
Consolation final: Friesth dec. Joseph Brewster (SDSU), 4-2

174: L.J. Helbig (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
Semifinals: Helbig dec. Clayton Gable (AF), 8-6
Final: Helbig dec. Monte Schmalhaus (UVU), 3-2

184: Shane Woods (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
Semifinals: Woods dec. Devin Hightower (AF), 8-6 SV1
Finals: Woods dec. Mac Stoll (NDSU), 7-5 SV1

197: Alfonso Hernandez (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
Semifinals: Hernandez fall (5:44) Josh Mohr (AF)
Finals: Hernandez tech. fall Kallen Kleinschmidt (NDSU), 22-7

285: Leland Pfeifer (2-1), Third place
Quarterfinals: Pfeifer dec. J.J. Everard (SDSU), 4-0
Semifinals: Adam Fager (UVU) dec. Pfeifer, 5-2
Consolation finals: Pfeifer dec. Bentley Alsup (AF), 6-4

Final Team Scores
1. Wyoming, 79.0
2. North Dakota State, 76.0
2. Utah Valley, 70.0
3. Air Force, 63.5
5. South Dakota State, 16.5

Tournament Awards
Outstanding Wrestler - Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State
Most Pins - Abner Cook, Utah Valley (Fastest Pin, 47 seconds)
Coach of the Year - Roger Kish, North Dakota State
Regular Season Team Champion - North Dakota State
Tournament Champion - Wyoming