Pokes Begin 2011-12 Wrestling Campaign On The Road

Nov. 3, 2011

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

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The Cowboys will kick the wrestling season off Saturday by competing in the Northwest College Open in Powell, Wyo. The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. in Cabre Gym.

This is one of the most anticipated seasons in Wyoming history. That's because the Pokes are riding the momentum of last year's success, which featured six NCAA Championship berths and two All-America honors.

Wyoming head coach Mark Branch and his staff will use the match results to determine the depth chart for weight classes and the starting lineup for the dual season, which begins Dec. 10 when the Pokes travel to Nebraska.

In the rankings
The Cowboys are ranked in several preseason polls. The Pokes, as a team, are ranked 11th in the nation by WrestlingReport.com, 12th by InterMat and tied for 15th by the NWCA/USA Today poll. WrestlingReport.com and InterMat rankings are tournament-based rankings.

Individually, Amateur Wrestling News ranked senior Michael Martinez as 12th in the nation at 125 pounds, senior Shane Onufer at second at 165 and senior Joe LeBlanc at sixth at 184. InterMat's rankings are as follows: M. Martinez (10th), Onufer (second), sophomore Patrick Martinez (20th at 174 pounds) and LeBlanc (sixth).

WrestlingReport.com has six Cowboys in its rankings, including M. Martinez (seventh), Onufer (second),M. Martinez (25th), LeBlanc (sixth) and junior L.J. Helbig at 23rd at 197 pounds.

The event
The Northwest Open will be an opportunity for several younger Cowboys and veterans to start the season, and if Branch has his way, his wrestlers will start out with a bang.

"When you've been practicing and working for something since August, there's a lot of anxiety," said Branch, who is entering his fourth year as UW's head coach. "Although our preseason was shortened, you can tell these guys are ready to wrestle someone new. In our workouts, you can tell our guys are getting into a little bit of a rut. Now you get to go out and see how they perform when it matters.

"In a tournament like this, we're going to get a chance to see a lot of head-to-head matchups and how these kids end up placing in an actual tournament. This is the beginning of trying to set our lineup, which by December, we hope to have a little better idea of our team. This is really important tournament for us to evaluate that and start putting the pieces together. The way they actually go out and compete is what going to help determine who we put out there."

The opponents
Along with some Division I opponents, there will be some NAIA, Division II and junior college schools there. This will be the first available opportunity for collegiate wrestlers to compete in tournaments.

"It's a good starter tournament for us," Branch said. "Hopefully, we have some kids matching up in the championship rounds. That's what you're looking for, to at least put these guys in that situation where this tournament title is on the line.

"Then you want to see how they compete, when it's for something. As a coach you're always amazed at the differences between practice and competition."