March 19, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. -
In bittersweet fashion, two members of the University of Wyoming Cowboy wrestling team continued to keep the brown and gold in the eye of the national wrestling community on Friday at the 2010 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Cowboy Joe LeBlanc sprung a big upset and advanced to the semifinals at 184 pounds, assuring that he would become the 25th All-American (top-eight finisher) in school history. However, a narrow loss in that semifinal knocked him into the consolation bracket where he can place no better than third on Saturday.
LeBlanc will wrestle No. 5 seed Clayton Foster of Oklahoma State on Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals. The winner of that match will compete for third place and the loser will wrestle for fifth later that morning. The LeBlanc/Foster fight will be a rematch from a dual in January that Foster won in a sudden victory overtime period.
Saturday's matches will begin at 9 a.m. MT.
UW's Michael Martinez clawed his way back through the 125-pound consolation bracket with two wins, only to lose his third match of the day and have to leave the event just one victory shy of All-American status.
Shane Onufer also wrestled on Friday, losing his only bout at 165 pounds.
"Today was heart-breaking for our guys and it's unfortunate that they did not reach their goals," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "But when you have high expectations then there is little room for fulfillment at this tournament.
"I want a team full of guys that have those type of expectations. Those are the kind of wrestlers that are successful here.
"I am proud of the way that Joe and Michael wrestled. They should be proud of themselves. They wrestled hard and tough. They were hurt by little mistakes, which ultimately put them in a hole and this is not the tournament where you want to try and dig yourself out of a hole."
LeBlanc had the difficult task of facing the No. 2 seed John Dergo from Illinois in the quarterfinals. Dergo's season record was 33-2 and he was the 2010 Big Ten Champion. LeBlanc took an early 4-0 lead after fighting off Dergo's takedown attempt and then getting a takedown of his own and a two-point nearfall, nearly pinning Dergo at that point. A Dergo escape would end the first period at 4-1 in favor of UW's wrestler. Another escape to start the second period and a subsequent takedown by Dergo would tie the score at 4-4. LeBlanc then escaped and ended that period up 5-4. The third period was a flurry of activity in favor of Dergo. He took LeBlanc down twice more, but LeBlanc countered with three escapes, one to start the period, and they went into extra time tied 8-8. In the one-minute sudden victory overtime, LeBlanc went on the attack, quickly getting to a leg and finally ending the exciting match with two takedown points at 7:41.
With the upset of Dergo, LeBlanc assured himself of All-American status for the second consecutive year in the deepest weight class of the tournament. Although his event was far from over, he could finish no worse than sixth place. There were eight returning All-Americans at 184 pounds, the most of any weight class at this year's NCAA Championships.
Next in the bracket was two-time All-American, the Big 12 runner-up and No. 6 seeded Max Askren from Missouri (18-2) in the semifinals. Another close match yielded yet another sudden victory decision, however this time LeBlanc came out on the losing end and was denied his goal of a national title shot. LeBlanc started the match strong, with a takedown and three-point nearfall for a 5-0 lead, but Askren came right back earned a reversal and a two-point nearfall of his own to close the first period down only 5-4. Askren would escape to start the second and tie the match at 5-5, but LeBlanc remained offensive and got another takedown at the 4:00 mark. Another Askren escape ended the period 7-6 in favor of LeBlanc. UW's 184-pounder started the third on the bottom and could not escape the grasp of Askren for the entire two minutes. LeBlanc nearly earned the escape point with just seconds remaining, which would have countered Askren's riding time and earned him the win, but the pair was declared out of bounds before the point could be awarded. A riding time point for MU sent the match into sudden victory and 31 seconds into the extra time, Askren got a takedown and the win.
LeBlanc season record is now 38-5 heading into Saturday's matches.
Martinez had UW's earliest match of the day and he got the `Pokes off to a good start with a workman-like 7-3 decision over Garrett Frey from Princeton. He survived a first-period takedown, got one of his own, then rode Frey for 1:53 of the second period. In the third, Martinez earned an escape, a late takedown (6:45) and a riding time point for the final margin.
Next for the Cowboy sophomore was the No. 9 seed Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma), whom Martinez would proceed to upset 6-3. Again, down early 2-0 in the first period, Martinez would escape and continued to keep the pressure on Patterson. He rode the OU wrestler hard for 1:52 of the two-minute second period, then would tack on another escape to start the third to get within 3-2. Patterson received his second stall warning when trying to flee the mat, so another point for Martinez tied it at 3-3. For the second straight match, he then ended with a takedown (6:58) and riding time point to get the win and advance.
Martinez' march back through the consolation bracket was stopped by All-American and No. 4 seed Anthony Robles (Arizona State). Robles entered the match with a 30-3 record. The two had met earlier this season and Martinez had lost 7-3 at the Las Vegas Invite, however this time he hoped to turn the tables on the ASU junior. As the match played out though, Martinez had troubles keeping Robles off his legs and could never counter with any offense of his own. He would lose 10-1, ending his sophomore season 3-2 at the NCAA Tournament and 33-9 overall.
Onufer's lone match-up of the day was with Josh Asper from Maryland. The bout was wrestled directly in front of the Maryland seating section and Asper used that added support to his advantage, getting a 9-1 major decision over Onufer and ending his tournament. UW's sophomore 165-pounder finished the 2009-10 season with a record of 28-7.
Wyoming NCAA Tournament Results
W - vs. Aaron Kalil (Navy), by decision, 6-2 (Thurs.)
L - vs. Jarrod Garnett (Virginia Tech), by decision, 5-2 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Garrett Frey (Princeton), by decision, 7-3 (Fri.)
W - vs. No. 9 seed Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma), by decision, 6-3 (Fri.)
L - vs. No. 4 seed Anthony Robles (Arizona State), by major decision, 10-1 (Fri.)
L - vs. Matthew Fisk (Lehigh), by decision, 2-1 (Thurs.)
L - vs. Justin Paulsen (Stanford), by technical fall (NF, 5:18), 17-1 (Thurs.)
L - vs. Tyler Grayson (Central Michigan), by major decision, 14-4 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Edwin Hojilla (UNC Greensboro), by decision, 6-3 (Thurs.)
L - vs. Josh Asper (Maryland), by major decision, 9-1 (Fri.)
W - vs. Josh Ihnen (Nebraska), by decision, 7-5 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Jason McCroskey (Chatanooga), by decision, 5-1 (Thurs.)
W - vs. No. 2 seed John Dergo (Illinois), by SV decision, 10-8 (Fri.)
L - vs. No. 6 seed Max Askren (Missouri), by SV decision, 9-7 (Fri.)