March 6, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
It has been the focus of the University of Wyoming Cowboy wrestling team for an entire season, and this Saturday, March 7, the `Pokes will compete in the NCAA West Regional and Western Wrestling Conference Tournament.
Winners of the NCAA West Regional automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship, to be held March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo. The West Regional also serves as the WWC Championships.
The Northern Colorado Bears are hosting the event in Greeley, Colo., at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, located on campus.
Matches will begin at 10 a.m. and will run all day. Finals are slated to be wrestled at approximately 4 p.m. Seeded brackets will be released Friday night.
Participating schools include Air Force, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, No. 22-ranked Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and Wyoming. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for youth, and may be purchased at the door, online at unco.edu/tickets or by calling 970-351-4849.
Wyoming's tentative lineup this year includes: redshirt freshman Michael Martinez (125), junior Cory VomBaur (133), sophomore Cole Dallaserra (141), redshirt freshman Chase Smith (149), senior and team captain Eric Coxbill (157), junior Alex Rieder (165), No. 18-ranked redshirt freshman Shane Onufer (174), No. 8-ranked redshirt freshman Joe LeBlanc (184), freshman Alfonso Hernandez (197) and freshman Jacob Scharbrough (Hwt.).
Leading the team, Onufer is 39-9, while LeBlanc is 38-6 and Martinez is 34-9. All other Cowboys competing this Saturday have a minimum of 20 wins: Rieder (26-15), Scharbrough (26-15), VomBaur (25-12), Dallaserra (22-12), Smith (22-21), Hernandez (21-17) and Coxbill (20-13).
It is the second straight year that both Coxbill and VomBaur have had 20-win seasons. Last season Coxbill was 26-12, while VomBaur was 20-17. VomBaur is a two-time NCAA Tournament qualifier.
With his 39 wins this season, Onufer is currently tied for sixth on UW's All-Time Single-Season Victories list with Mike Hamel (1984-85). Only one win behind Onufer is LeBlanc, who is tied for eighth all-time with Reese Andy, who reached that number during the 1995-96 season.
The Cowboys will be attempting to snare the West Regional title away from the Northern Iowa Panthers, who have won the team regional title for 23 straight seasons. This will be the 10th year (since 2000) that Wyoming has qualified for the NCAA Championships through the West Regional Tournament. UW has finished in second place twice, 2004 and 2006.
With their win last Wed. over UNCo., the Cowboys remained undefeated in the WWC and claimed a share of the league regular season dual championship along with Northern Iowa. UW had five league victories, while UNI had only four wins within the conference and did not wrestle Wyoming and Utah Valley.
It is the first time in the three-year history of the league that UW has won a regular season title.
Last season at the West Regional in Fargo, N.D., Wyoming placed third with 49.5 points, behind Northern Iowa (119) and Air Force (64.5). VomBaur (133), Carter Downing (141), Coxbill (165) and Jason Still (Hwt.) all placed second. VomBaur and Downing earned wild card selections to the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA announced the automatic qualifier allocations last week for the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Based on a variety of pre-set standards, the West Regional was awarded 13 automatic qualifiers, in contrast to the 20 qualifiers the event was given last year under the old system. The tournament champion in each weight class qualifies, as well as the second-place finisher at 149, 184 and 197. However, those second-place finishers may have to win a true second-place match even if they reach the final, provided they haven't wrestled the third-place finisher yet.
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person next week to select the remaining at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 11.