Cowboy Grapplers Finish Third In Las Vegas Invitational

Dec. 3, 2011

LAS VEGAS -

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The Las Vegas Invitational is an event where unknowns can make a name for themselves, and over the weekend, some Wyoming wrestlers did just that.

Seniors Joe LeBlanc (184 pounds) and Shane Onufer (165) won their weight-class title, and five other UW wrestlers placed in the top eight Saturday in the conclusion of the two-day event.

Wyoming finished third in the team standings, just behind champion Ohio State and runner-up Michigan.

"The important thing walking away from this tourney was some guys made a name for themselves," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "That's awesome, because we won't see some of these schools until the end. We really did ourselves a lot of good. Our guys were under the spotlight, and they responded well to the exposure."

Onufer, currently ranked third in the country, went 5-0 on the weekend, and had his best day Saturday, beating two ranked wrestlers en route to the 165-pound crown. In his first match, Onufer beat Joe Booth of Drexel, ranked 17th in the nation, and took out Paul Gillespie (Hofstra), who was ranked fourth. Onufer won a 4-2 decision over Gillespie for the title, and now is 11-0 on the year.

LeBlanc continued his dominating run this season as well, beating 10th-ranked Josh Ihnen (Nebraska) and third-ranked Steve Bosak of Cornell. LeBlanc was solid in the title match, beating Bosak in a 7-3 decision.LeBlanc, ranked fourth in the nation, moved to 11-0 for the season.

Senior Michael Martinez (125) recovered from a loss on Friday to win two matches in the consolation bracket Saturday, but lost to Western Wrestling Conference foe Trent Sprenkle of North Dakota State in the fifth/sixth place match. He dropped a 3-1 decision to Sprenkle to finish sixth.

Redshirt freshman Zach Zehner finished fifth in the 133-pound bracket after qualifying for the semifinals Friday with three wins. Zehner dropped his first match of the day to 10th-ranked Aaron Schopp of Edinboro and suffered his second defeat to No. 18 Steven Keith of Harvard. He recovered with his second win of the tournament over Ridge Kiley of Nebraska, who was ranked 17th in the nation. Zehner beat Kiley in a 6-5 decision to place fifth.

Dakota Friesth, a redshirt freshman at 157 pounds, finished eighth overall. He started Saturday's action in the wrestleback bracket, and won a 7-3 decision over Josh Kremier of Air Force. Friesth then dropped the next match to No. 14 Josh Demas of Ohio State, and fell to Corey Mock of North Carolina in the seventh/eighth-place match in a 7-0 decision.

The Pokes had another placer in redshirt freshman Patrick Martinez, who was fourth at 174 pounds. He started Saturday with three straight wins to get to the third/fourth-place match, but couldn't get by fourth-ranked Nick Heflin of Ohio State, who won a close 3-2 decision.

The final placewinner for Wyoming was redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez, who was fourth at 197 pounds. Hernandez won three bouts on Saturday in the consolation bracket to get to the third-place match, but lost a 5-3 decision to No. 7 Matthew Wilps of Pittsburgh.

"We didn't wrestle our best by any means (Saturday)," Branch said. "Our best wrestling is ahead of us. We went in there with big boys and went toe to toe with them. I feel really positive. I think we can wrestle better and I know we will wrestle a lot better. We earned respect today. That'll help as the season goes on."