Dec. 19, 2010
RENO, Nev. -
The University of Wyoming wrestling program boosted its national reputation in a big way Sunday at a prestigious event in Reno, Nev.
The 'Pokes took to the mats in the Reno Tournament of Champions in an event that features some of the top teams and wrestlers from across the nation. With five wrestlers placing in the top five of their weight classes, the Cowboys scored 106 points to win the team title, edging out perennial powerhouse Boise State by 1.5 points. As a team, Wyoming went 41-20 in its matches.
It's the first time Wyoming has won the event in its history.
"It's a very big step for the program, especially with being able to come into a tournament and beat a team like Boise State," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "They're a very strong team and I think they're probably ranked in the top five in most polls. To come in after we've been struggling...the big key was we came out and wrestled well early. We put ourselves in a position to stay in there. Our kids kept fighting and clawing to stay in there. It's a huge deal for this program."
After some disappointing performances the last few weeks, Branch was impressed with the Cowboys' ability to bounce back.
"We talk about how important it is to wrestle for your team," the coach said. "It took a huge effort. You've got to be prepared to scrap and fight and claw. Our goal wasn't to come in and win this tournament, it was to come in and wrestle hard. I don't think any of us expected to walk away with the team title. It's a first for this program, for sure."
Junior Joe LeBlanc, ranked No. 1 by several publications, won the 184-pound title for Wyoming, beating Luke Rebertes of Navy in the championship match with an 11-4 decision. He went 5-0 in the event, with three pins and one major decision.
Junior Shane Onufer also took first place in the 165-pound division. He took a 10-2 major decision in the title match versus No. 13 Ryan DesRoches of Cal Poly en route to a 6-0 tournament record. He recorded two major decisions and a pin. For his efforts, Onufer was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
Senior Cole Dallaserra took second place in the 149-pound bracket with a 4-1 record with one technical fall and one pin. He lost an 8-2 decision to Boise State's Jason Chamberlain, who was ranked No. 2 in the nation, in the title match.
"For him to go through and get second was big for our team," Branch said of Dallaserra's performance.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Cox wrestled hard to claim a third-place finish in the 125-pound division. He went 4-1 in the event with two falls, but fell to Anthony Robles of Arizona State in a 7-0 decision. The loss dropped him to the wrestleback bracket, and he went on to defeat Prescott Garner of Chattanooga in a 12-9 decision in the third-place match.
"Tyler Cox continues to win me over," Branch said. "My confidence is growing in him every day."
The other Cowboy wrestler to perform well was 141-pound Chase Smith. The junior cruised to four wins before falling to Germain Lindsey of Ohio in a 6-3 decision. He then lost another match before taking a win over Cody Cleveland of Chattanooga in the fifth-place match by virtue of a medical forfeit. He went 5-2 in the tournament with one fall.
"It was big-time performance, something we can leave the first semester feeling good about," Branch said. "We needed that. It was nice that they showed up and wrestled hard. I'm awfully proud of the performance."
Breakdown of Wyoming's Results
Tyler Cox (125 pounds)-- 4-1, two falls, third-place finish
Kasey Garnhart (133)--3-2, one major decision
Michael Martinez (133)-- 2-2
Chase Smith (141)-- 4-2, one fall, fifth-place finish
Conrad Snell (141)-- 2-2, one fall
Jimmy Belleville (149)-- 4-2, three major decisions and one fall
Cole Dallaserra (149)-- 4-1, one technical fall and one fall, second-place finish
Shane Onufer (165)-- 6-0, one fall and two major decisions, first-place finish
Patrick Martinez (174)-- 3-2, two major decisions
Dallas Hintz (174)-- 0-2
Joe LeBlanc (184)-- 5-0, three falls and one major decision, first-place finish
L.J. Helbig (197)-- 2-2, one major decision (left due to concussion)
Joe O'Farrell (285)-- 1-2