Dec. 5, 2009
PRIMM, Nev. -
Capping a strong showing in a high-caliber event, the Wyoming Cowboy wrestlers left the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday with two third-place finishes and one fourth-place honor. UW's Joe LeBlanc, at 184 pounds, and Shane Onufer, at 165 pounds, both took third in their brackets. Michael Martinez (125) placed fourth in his weight class.
All three Wyoming grapplers had to beat All-Americans during the two-day event to secure their finishes.
As a team, the Cowboys held their position in the standings from Day One and finished in 10th place out of 42 squads. That field included 12 of the top-25 ranked wrestling programs in the country. Wyoming placed ahead of ranked programs No. 19 Old Dominion, No. 20 Illinois, No. 21 Arizona State and No. 24 Virginia Tech.
"We did some good things to put ourselves in the top 10," UW head coach Mark Branch said. "When you look at this field, our finish was a positive team step, but probably more so individually because some of the wins our guys got make it easier for the others to realize the type of success we are capable of. This should provide some positive things for the mentality of the team. Our finishes here will also bring some exposure and respect, both of which are important for a program."
At 184 pounds, LeBlanc had one of the biggest wins of the event for the `Pokes in the consolation finals when he beat No. 3-ranked, three-time All-American and 2008 NCAA Champion Mike Pucillo of Ohio State. The Cowboy sophomore finished his tournament strong by dominating the match and beating Pucillo 10-5. To get to that match, LeBlanc beat Steve Bosak from Cornell, 7-5 in sudden victory, after narrowly losing to No.7 ranked Kirk Smith from Boise State (3-2) in his semifinal match. He ended the event with a 6-1 record, 16-2 this season.
Onufer followed a similar path at 174 pounds, losing by a slim margin in the semifinals to No. 8 Colt Sponseller from Ohio State (6-4), before winning two straight to finish the tournament. He beat P.J. Gillespie from Hofstra by a score of 3-2, before getting his second victory in as many days over All-American and No. 6 ranked Andy Rendos from Bucknell in the consolation final. Onufer was aggressive from the start and stuck Rendos' shoulders to the mat at 2:15 in the first period. He finished the tournament with a 5-1 record, 14-4 so far this year.
Martinez lost his 125-pound semifinal bout with No. 3 Anthony Robles of Arizona State by a score of 7-3. He then beat Alan Bartelli of Boise State 4-1, setting up a rematch with All-American and No. 5 ranked James Nicholson of Old Dominion. On Friday, Martinez beat Nicholson 6-4 in sudden victory to get to the semifinals. This time around Nicholson would have the upper hand, winning 7-2. Martinez concluded the event with a 4-2 record, 14-3 this season.
No. 4 ranked Ohio State won the team title with 122.5 points, followed by No. 9 Cornell (121.5), No. 12 Oklahoma (109.5), No. 7 Boise State (97.5), No. 11 Nebraska (95), No. 13 Indiana (90.5), No. 23 Cal Poly (78.5), Oregon State (77.5), No. 22 Wisconsin (73.5) and then UW (71).
Wyoming will now have a 12-day break before traveling to Stanford for a dual on Friday, Dec. 18 and then to the Reno Tournament of Champions on Sunday, Dec. 20.
Wyoming Wrestlers, Tournament Record, Bonus Point Wins