Wyoming Wrestlers Capitalize In Kearney

Nov. 19, 2011


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The Cowboy wrestlers took advantage of their opportunities Saturday in the Kearney Open, and won six weight-class titles.

In a small but talented field, which included wrestlers from Nebraska and Air Force, Wyoming had one of its best overall performances of the year.

"We had some guys that started to show the consistency we're looking for," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "It wasn't a big tournament in terms of numbers, but we had some guys from Nebraska and Air Force, and we got to see some good competition."

Junior Kasey Garnhart won the Elite tournament title at 125 pounds. He was among three UW wrestlers to place in the top four.

He started out by defeating Shawn Nagel of Nebraska in a 13-3 major decision. He then beat a teammate in the next match, senior Michael Martinez, in a 3-3 decision, which came down to riding time in the first tiebreaker. In the title match, he took out Greg Rinker of Air Force in a 12-2 major decision. Sophomore Tyler Cox, competing unattached, was third and Martinez was fourth at 125.

In the Elite 133 class, redshirt freshman Zach Zehner went 3-1 and finished third, while sophomore Jake Eitzen was 2-2 and was fourth overall.

Redshirt freshman Mike Hamel finished fifth at 141 pounds, while senior Chase Smith suffered his first loss of the season at 149 pounds. Smith won his first two matches, but fell to No. 6 Cole VonOhlen of Air Force in a 12-9 decision in the title match. Smith now is 11-1 on the season. Redshirt freshman Brandon Richardson was fifth at 149.

Redshirt freshman Dakota Friesth was fifth at 157 pounds, going 4-2 on the day.

Senior Shane Onufer went 2-0 on his way to the 165-pound title, defeating Joey Wilson (Nebraska-Kearney) in a 9-2 decision and Robert Kokesh of Nebraska in a 6-2 decision.

Sophomore Pat Martinez went 4-0 en route to the 174-pound championship, beating Tyler Koehn of Nebraska in a 4-0 decision in the title match. Senior Dallas Hintz was fifth at 174 pounds.

"Pat had his best performance of the season," Branch said. "He put together a great tourney and dominated the field."

Senior Joe LeBlanc put on a dominating display during his 184-pound title run, going 3-0 with one pin and two wins by technical fall. He was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.

LeBlanc and Onufer will wrestle Monday in the NWCA All-Star Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The event is a showcase of some of the nation's best collegiate wrestlers.

"We weren't sure they would wrestle the whole tournament," Branch said of LeBlanc and Onufer. "Shane had some tough competition, especially in the finals. He had to dig down deep, and those were good wins for those guys heading into the All-Star matches. I'm glad they showed their experience and leadership in getting the job done today."

Redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez won his second tournament title of the season, going 4-0 in the 197-pound bracket, beating teammate L.J. Helbig in a 7-2 decision in the title tilt.

Freshman Jace Jensen finished fourth in the Amateur 165 division, but the star of the Amateur bracket for the Cowboys was freshman V.J. Giulio. He was the 184-pound champ of the Amateur division, going 4-0 on the day. He pinned Cory Brester of Nebraska in 2:12 in the title match.

"He dominated his bracket, beating a kid from Nebraska that had a pretty good history," Branch said of Giulio. "To see him come through was awesome."

Branch and the Cowboys will have their toughest test to date in their next event as a team. The Cowboys will go to the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational, which is Dec. 2-3 in Las Vegas. The Kearney Open will serve them well for that event, Branch said.

"Our young kids stepped up, more up to their capabilities," Branch said. "Unfortunately for me, we've got a lot of figuring out to do. Some of the kids are not showing me they have an edge. Someone needs to step up. We have a lot of weights still up in the air. I told our team we had some good and bad (from Saturday). I think we can be a better team and I know we will. I think we got a lot out of it."