March 13, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
With the final brackets and seeding settled, the six University of Wyoming wrestlers heading to the NCAA Championships now can see how they stack up against the country's top competition on the mats.
The championships begin Thursday and run through Saturday in the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Thursday: Session I, 10 a.m. MT on ESPN3.com; Session II, 5:30 p.m. MT on ESPN3.com
Friday: Session III, 9 a.m. MT on ESPNU HD/ESPN3.com; Session IV, 5 p.m. MT on ESPNU HD/ESPN3.com
Saturday: Session V, 9 a.m. MT on ESPNU HD/ESPN3.com; Session VI, 5:30 p.m. MT on ESPN HD/ESPN3.com
Wyoming has six qualifiers, matching their 2011 total. Four of those from last season return to the championships this year. Here's a breakdown of each:
Michael Martinez: The senior 125-pounder earned a 24-11 record this year and appeared in nine duals, tallying a 7-2 mark. He made his way onto UW's all-time wins list and now sits in seventh with 115. He is a four-time NCAA qualifier and is 6-6 in the championships over the previous three years. He'll take on 10th-seeded Nicholas Megaludis (Penn State, 24-7) in the first round.
Zach Zehner: Just a redshirt freshman, Zehner burst onto the scene at 133 pounds this year. He built a 28-11 record with nine dual wins for the Pokes, including nine pins. He finished second at the NCAA West Regional to earn an automatic bid to the championships. He'll make his debut at nationals versus Scott Festejo of Old Dominion, who had a 23-14 record.
Shane Onufer: The second-seeded senior lost just one match all season, and heads to the 165-pound bracket with a 31-1 mark. He went unbeaten in conference matches and had nine major decisions. He is 8-6 in the NCAAs over the last three years with All-America honors last year. He won his fourth straight West Regional title this season and faces Benjamin Jordan of Wisconsin (23-10) in the first round.
Pat Martinez: A second-straight West Regional title was the sophomore's reward for his hard work all year at 174 pounds. He was second on the team in victories (34) and won 10 dual matches. He hopes to improve upon his 1-2 mark at last year's championships and takes on West Virginia's Lance Bryson (24-14) in the first round.
Joe LeBlanc: The senior, Wyoming's all-time leader in wins (143), hopes for his fourth All-America distinction this season at 184 pounds. That would be a first in UW history. LeBlanc has lost just one match all season and earned the No. 1 seed at 184 for the championships. He has compiled an NCAA Championship mark of 14-7 over the past three years and will face Mike Larson of Missouri (20-4) in his first match at nationals.
Alfonso Hernandez: The redshirt junior had a breakout performance this season, winning a team-high 36 matches. He won three matches versus ranked opponents and led the team with 15 major decisions. Seeded ninth in the bracket, he'll make his first trip to nationals to face Daniel Mitchell of American (20-11) in the first round.
The Cowboy duo of Onufer and LeBlanc claimed the program's 26th and 27th All-America honors, respectively. Onufer was fifth and LeBlanc was sixth, and UW finished 28th in the final team standings.
Penn State, last year's team champion, enters the championships as the pick to win it all again. InterMat and WIN Magazine each have the Nittany Lions at No. 1 in their final weekly ratings. Both polls are based on projected finish at the NCAA Championships. The Cowboys were picked to finish sixth in the team standings by WIN and tied for seventh in InterMat.