March 17, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Four University of Wyoming Cowboy wrestlers will have a chance to fulfill their season-long training goals this week at the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, to be held Thursday through Saturday, March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo.
330 wrestlers will compete in ten different weight classes for the prestige of All-American honors and National Champion titles. Wyoming will be represented by redshirt freshman Michael Martinez at 125 pounds, junior Cory VomBaur (133), redshirt freshman Shane Onufer (174) and redshirt freshman Joe LeBlanc (184), all of whom won their weights at the West Regional Tournament to earn automatic NCAA spots.
"No matter who our guys drew at their weight in the first round, they are in a tournament with the 33 best wrestlers in the country and in some weight classes there is not much difference between number one and number 33," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "Any guy in the field could win and that is how I look at the brackets and how I want my team to look at the brackets. Every wrestler in this tournament is talented, so success at Nationals comes down to toughness and who is willing to work the hardest.
"We are preparing for that first match and that match only. If we want to be successful in this tournament we will have to make some noise with upsets, due to our lack of experience. However, upsets happen every year, in every weight class and that is the mind-set we need to wrestle with."
Martinez, who is 37-9 this year, will open the event against No. 17-ranked Marcus Orozco of UC Davis. It will be a rematch of a bout earlier this season when Orozco rallied in the third period and narrowly beat Martinez 6-3 in Reno. Orozco is a senior with a 21-8 record, who placed third at the PAC-10 Championship. Martinez has a 4-6 season record against opponents in his 33-person bracket, with wins over Anthony Mustari of Northern Colorado (twice), Brian Owen of Boise State and Derek Reber of Bucknell.
VomBaur has a record of 27-12 this season. He is a three-time NCAA qualifier, the last two years via wild card selection. In VomBaur's first match he will face the winner of No. 3-seed and No. 3-nationally ranked James Kennedy (Illinois) versus David Marble (Bucknell). Kennedy, a junior who is 28-4, recently placed third at the Big Ten Championships. Marble is also a junior, with a record of 27-10. He placed fourth at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association qualifier. VomBaur is 3-7 against the field at his weight, having beaten Tyler Dillashaw of Cal State Fullerton, Darius Little from North Carolina State and Christian Smith of Liberty.
No. 17-ranked Onufer leads the Cowboy team in victories with his season record of 42-9. He will begin the national tournament against the No. 4-seed and No. 4-ranked Jay Borschel of Iowa. Although Wyoming and Iowa met earlier this season at the National Duals, Onufer has not previously wrestled Borschel. Borschel is a junior with a record of 27-3. He recently took third place at the Big Ten Championships. Despite wrestling over 50 matches this season, Onufer has not matched up against very many of the competitors at his weight head-to-head. He is 1-4 against the few he has met, with a win over Nate Rock of Buffalo.
No. 8-ranked LeBlanc enters the championships with a record of 40-6. He is the only Cowboy to be seeded (top 12 at each weight) and is event's No. 9-seed at 184 pounds. LeBlanc will open versus No. 12-ranked Jordan Blanton of Illinois, the first meeting between the two. Blanton is a freshman with a 26-8 record and a recent fourth place finish at the Big Ten Championships. LeBlanc has the most wins of any UW wrestler against the NCAA field, with a mark of 5-5. He has wins over Anthony Biondo of Michigan, Alex Dolly from Northern Iowa, Vince Jones of Nebraska, Chris McNeil from Oklahoma State and Mickey Moran of Buffalo.
The three-day event will take place at the Scottrade Center. There will be two sessions of matches each day, beginning on Thursday at 10 a.m., MT.
The quarterfinals will air Friday, March 20, at 9 a.m. MT on ESPNU and ESPN360.com, and the semifinals at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360.com. For the third consecutive year, the semifinals will be telecast in a side-by-side format, allowing viewers to see both semifinal matches in each weight class at the same time, both on ESPNU and ESPN2.
ESPNU will telecast the Championship Medal Round on Saturday, March 21, at 8:30 a.m., and the hunt for the Div. I title culminates with the Finals at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN. During the Finals, two referees per match each will wear a microphone, providing fans with even more access to and understanding of the action.
Last season, Wyoming had two qualifiers for the national tournament, VomBaur at 133 pounds and Carter Downing (141).