Wyoming's Joe LeBlanc Still Going at the NCAA Championships

March 20, 2009

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -

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The University of Wyoming Cowboy wrestlers continued to show the national wrestling community that they are a program on the rise, Friday at the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

Thanks to two more wins by Wyoming redshirt freshman Joe LeBlanc at 184 pounds, the Cowboys will be represented on the final day of competition and will have their first All-American in 13 years. LeBlanc was 2-1 on Friday and will wrestle Saturday for no worse than sixth place.

At 174 pounds Cowboy Shane Onufer went 1-1 before being knocked out of the back draw, while UW's Michael Martinez (125) and Cory VomBaur (133) each lost their only matches.

"I knew that Joe was capable of what he has accomplished so far in this tournament, but the fashion in which he has done it is just icing on the cake," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "He beat two kids back-to-back who had beaten him earlier this year. It is kind of hard to put into words. It was diffcult to bring him down off of Cloud-Nine after he won his first match, but he was not satisfied with seventh or eighth place and won again in dominating fashion.

"All of our guys competed hard today, which is a positive sign and I'm proud of their effort. No one laid down, we just had some tight matches and had trouble scoring."

In his quarterfinal bout with No. 1 seed Jake Herbert of Northwestern, LeBlanc got a taste of what it takes to be a national champion. UW's redshirt freshman phenom was soundly beaten by the sixth-year NWU senior. Although he occasionally got inside on Herbert, LeBlanc could not finish his scoring chances and lost by major decision 18-5.

LeBlanc then had to wait until the evening session for his next match, against No. 10 seed Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro) in the wrestlebacks. Honeycutt and LeBlanc had met earlier this season in the finals at the Reno Tournament of Champions, with Honeycutt winning 4-1, however, this time around LeBlanc would not be denied. He scored a double-leg takedown 45 seconds into the match and then rode out Honeycutt for the rest of the first period to rack up riding time. LeBlanc then started down in the second period, recorded an escape and led 3-0 heading into the final two minutes. After giving up a takedown to bring the score to 3-2, LeBlanc escaped, recorded a takedown of his own at 6:30 and then tacked on a riding time point to win 7-2.

That win assured that LeBlanc would finish no worse than eighth and would be named an All-American. It will be the `Pokes first All-American in wrestling since 1996 when Brent Voorhees (seventh), Brandon Alderman (sixth) and Reese Andy (second) all earned the distinction.

His third match of the day brought No. 6 seed Josh Patterson of Binghamton, who had beaten LeBlanc 10-7 earlier this season. Patterson got two quick takedowns and was leading 4-1 when LeBlanc scored a reversal, put Patterson on his back and then brought the crowd to their feet with a pin at 2:30. The fall was the seventh of the season for LeBlanc and assured him of no worse than sixth place.

LeBlanc will face the tournament's No. 7 seed Doug Umbehauer in his next match on Saturday morning.

He now has a season record of 44-7 and is tied for fourth place on UW's Single Season Victories list with his teammate Onufer and Wes Gasner, who had 44 wins during the 1982-83 season..

Onufer gave Wyoming their first win of the morning session against Scott Giffin from Penn in the consolation bracket. After no scoring in the first period, the Cowboy redshirt freshman chose bottom position to begin the second and then went to work. He earned an escape point, followed quickly by a takedown at 4:00. Onufer sealed the victory with another takedown at 5:40 in the third period and the final score went in the books at 5-3.

With a short turn-around in that same session, Onufer found himself matched up with No. 19 ranked John Dergo of Illinois. A takedown by Dergo at 2:20 in the first period put Onufer in a hole he could not recover from and he lost a 5-3 decision. Onufer managed only three escape points in the match that ended his tournament.

The 2008-09 season by Onufer will go down as one of the most successful in Wyoming school history in terms of wins. He finished with a season record of 44-11 and is tied for fourth place on UW's Single Season Victories list with LeBlanc and Gasner. Onufer's record at the 2009 NCAA Championships concluded at 2-2.

Martinez faced Brandon Zoetewey of Cal State Bakersfield first thing Friday morning in the wrestlebacks and suffered a one-point loss, 4-3. Zoeteway got the only takedown of the match early in the third period. A riding time point ultimately determined the outcome after Martinez was unable to shake off his opponent and counter with any offense.

The UW redshirt freshman finishes his season with a record of 38-11, 1-2 at the NCAA Championships.

The Cowboys would fall victim to another one-point loss when VomBaur matched-up with No. 8 seed Joe Baker from Navy in the consolation round. After no scoring in the first period, VomBaur would take a 2-1 lead in the second with a takedown at 3:40. However, he then gave up two third-period takedowns and could not escape at the end of regulation, losing 5-4.

VomBaur concludes his junior season with an overall record of 28-14, 1-2 at this year's NCAA event.

"Only time will tell what this means for our program, but our performances here are a great example for the rest of the team," Branch concluded. "We still have a lot to learn, but guys like Joe can now be looked to for how to come to a national tournament and compete."

There will be two sessions of matches on Saturday as the tournament concludes. Bouts begin with the consolation third through eighth medal rounds at 8:30 a.m., MT. The finals will be competed at 4:30 p.m., MT. ESPNU will telecast Saturday's action.

Wyoming Results

125 pounds - Michael Martinez, 1-2
W - vs. No. 17 ranked Marcus Orozco (UC Davis), by decision, 7-1 (Thurs.)
L - vs. No. 4 seed Brandon Precin (Northwestern), by decision, 6-1 (Thurs.)
L -vs. Brandon Zoetewey (Cal State Bakersfield), by decision, 4-3 (Fri.)

133 pounds - Cory VomBaur, 1-2
L - vs. David Marble (Bucknell), by major decision, 10-0 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Frank Celorrio (Appalachian St.), by decision, 6-0 (Thurs.)
L - vs. No. 8 seed Joe Baker (Navy), by decision, 5-4 (Fri.)

174 pounds - Shane Onufer (No. 17 ranked), 2-2
L - vs. No. 4 seed Jay Borschel (Iowa), by major decision, 13-1 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Anthony Trongone (Virginia Tech), by decision, 7-2 (Thurs.)
W - vs. Scott Giffin (Penn), by decision, 5-3 (Fri.)
L - vs. John Dergo (Illinois), by decision, 5-3 (Fri.)

184 pounds - No. 9 seed Joe LeBlanc (No. 8 ranked), 4-1
W - vs. No. 12 ranked Jordan Blanton (Illinois), by decision, 12-7 (Thurs.)
W - vs. No. 8 seed David Craig (Lehigh), by major decision, 11-3 (Thurs.)
L - vs. No. 1 seed Jake Herbert (Northwestern), by major decision, 18-5 (Fri.)
W - vs. No. 10 seed Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro), by decision, 7-2 (Fri.)
W - vs. No. 6 seed Josh Patterson (Binghamton), by fall at 2:30 (Fri.)