March 6, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The postseason begins Saturday for the University of Wyoming wrestling program, as the Cowboys host the 2013 NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championship in the Arena-Auditorium.
Action begins at noon MT Saturday with the No. 4-5 matchups at each weight class. Finals for both the championship and consolation begin at 6 p.m. Automatic bids to the NCAA Championships (March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa) will be awarded at the tournament, which also serves as the conference championship for the WWC. Doors open at 11 a.m.
What's at stake
After winning the event every year since 2010, the Cowboys will take aim at their fourth-straight West Regional team title in 2013. It marks the 13th season UW has competed at the West Regional and seventh year it has been combined with the WWC. In the four years under Wyoming head coach Mark Branch, the Pokes have finished either first (three times) or second (once) in the team race at the event.
Wyoming last hosted the West Regional in 2006.
Along with UW, Western Wrestling Conference members Air Force, North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Utah Valley will wrestle in the daylong event. The other WWC team, Northern Colorado, will not participate as the Bears are not eligible for postseason competition.
The conference features standouts at several weights, including four ranked wrestlers at 125 pounds, three at 149 and two at 157.
A new experience
Five wrestlers in Wyoming's lineup have never wrestled in the postseason, including senior Kasey Garnhart at 133 pounds, sophomore Brandon Richardson at 149, sophomore Dakota Friesth at 165, sophomore Shane Woods at 184 and sophomore Leland Pfeifer at 285.
UW's 10 starters posted a 40-26 mark versus WWC opponents this season in duals and tournaments.
UW probable lineup | Pre-seed ranking for West Regional
125 pounds: No. 18 Tyler Cox, So. (29-7) | No. 2 seed
133: Kasey Garnhart, Sr. (11-13) | No. 5 seed
141: McCade Ford, Sr. (12-12) | No. 3 seed
149: Brandon Richardson, So. (11-18) | No. 5 seed
157: No. 14 Andy McCulley, So. (26-7) | No. 2 seed
165: Dakota Friesth, So. (15-17) | No. 5 seed
174: L.J. Helbig, Sr. (20-10) | No. 1 seed
184: Shane Woods, So. (22-13) | No. 3 seed
197: No. 4 Alfonso Hernandez, Sr. (29-1) | No. 1 seed
285: Leland Pfeifer, So. (1-10) | No. 5 seed
The champs are back
UW has had 29 individual championships at the West Regional tournament since 2000. Returning champs include senior Alfonso Hernandez, who won the 197-pound title in 2012, and senior L.J. Helbig, who was the 197-pound champ in 2011, but now wrestles at 174.
The NCAA announced Feb. 28 that the NCAA West Regional Tournament/Western Wrestling Conference Championship had been allocated 16 automatic qualifier spots for the 2013 Division I Wrestling Championships. Only members of the WWC earn bids to the NCAA Tournament at that event. The NCAA also released that the WWC had 22 wrestlers named in the final Coaches' Panel Rankings and Rating Percentage Index (RPI) for the 2012-13 wrestling season. Wrestlers earn bids for each weight class of each conference tournament based on several factors, including ranking in the coaches' poll, record and RPI. Below is a breakdown of the allocation of bids to each weight class.
125 pounds: 4
After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 13. All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers. The at-large selections will be made based on the following criteria: head-to-head competition; qualifying event placement; quality wins; results against common opponents; winning percentage; RPI; coaches' ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class.