Cowboy Wrestling Faces Key WWC Showdown

Jan. 26, 2012

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

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A familiar rival comes to town Sunday when the University of Wyoming wrestling team will battle Northern Iowa in a Western Wrestling Conference dual.

The details
Doors open to the UniWyo Sports Complex at 1 p.m. Sunday, and matches begin at 2 p.m. Live stats will be available at www.trackwrestling.com and live video will be available through Wyoming's subscription-based WYO-Vision multimedia service on www.wyomingathletics.com.

What happened last year
The Panthers handed Wyoming coach Mark Branch the only Western Wrestling Conference loss of his career in early 2011, beating the Cowboys 19-13 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Branch is 17-1 in WWC action since 2008-09.

The lineup
Northern Iowa (4-3 overall, 2-0 WWC) features two ranked wrestlers, including Joe Colon (133 pounds) and Ryan Loder at 184 pounds. Colon was 12th in the latest InterMat poll, while Loder was sixth.

The Cowboys (4-2 overall, 1-0 WWC) have five wrestlers in the InterMat ranks, including senior Michael Martinez (17th at 125 pounds), redshirt freshman Zach Zehner (17th at 133), senior Shane Onufer (third at 165), senior Joe LeBlanc (first at 184) and redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez (eighth at 197).

Series history
Northern Iowa took home the regular-season WWC crown in 2010 after the two teams shared the 2009 season title. In the previous five seasons of WWC action, either UNI, Wyoming or both have won the regular-season title. The Pokes are 5-13 all-time versus UNI.

High expectations
Branch and the Cowboys come into the Northern Iowa dual after two wins last weekend versus Cal Poly and Utah Valley. The Pokes have won four straight duals, but can't hang their hats on that when it comes to the Panthers and the challenges they'll present.

"They're a big rival within our conference," Branch said of Northern Iowa. "We've split the conference with them and it's basically come down to these two teams every year. We're looking at these guys as a huge challenge within our conference. We have to come out with a lot of energy.

"They beat us last year. The theme this year with Oregon State, Cal Poly and Oklahoma - those were three teams that beat us last year and we've come back and gotten a little revenge. We're approaching this the same way. We don't let go of those things. That's something we are using as motivation."