March 7, 2012
The landscape for the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships gained some clarity Wednesday as the NCAA released its brackets for the event, which is March 15-17 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The past weekend featured 290 automatic bids awarded through conference qualifying tournaments. To round out the field, the NCAA Selection Committee named the final 40 at-large bids Wednesday and released final brackets. The Cowboys didn't receive any additional qualifiers to the event and will bring the six automatic-bid winners from the NCAA West Regional on Sunday.
Each weight class features 33 wrestlers, and the NCAA seeds the top 12 in each class and draws in the remaining wrestlers. Three Wyoming wrestlers earned seeds, including senior Joe LeBlanc, who was the top seed at 184 pounds; senior Shane Onufer, the No. 2 seed at 165; and redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez, who earned the No. 9 seed at 197 pounds.
"Every draw at the NCAA Tournament is tough, whether you're seeded or not," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "I look at it and I'm pleased with where we're at. I think we're in very winnable situations. You don't look past the first round, but we're in a good position. We've just got to go out and wrestle hard and be more prepared than them."
Here's a breakdown of the first-round opponent for each of Wyoming's six qualifiers:
125 pounds: Senior Michael Martinez (24-11) vs. 10th-seed Nicholas Megaludis (Penn State, 24-7)
133: Redshirt freshman Zach Zehner (28-11) vs. Scott Festejo (Old Dominion, 23-14)
165: Second-seeded Senior Shane Onufer (31-1) vs. Benjamin Jordan (Wisconsin, 23-10)
174: Sophomore Pat Martinez (34-10) vs. Lance Bryson (West Virginia, 24-14)
184: First-seeded senior Joe LeBlanc (30-1) vs. Mike Larson (Missouri, 20-4)
197: Ninth-seeded redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez (36-5) vs. Daniel Mitchell (American, 20-11)