Dec. 16, 2011
LARAMIE, Wyo. - On Sunday, the Wyoming Cowboy wrestling program will return to the site of one of last year's biggest accomplishments when the Pokes take on the field at the nationally renowned Reno Tournament of Champions.
Wyoming will join 27 other schools at the RTOC to compete for the prestigious team title in a tournament dubbed by the event's creators as the "Toughest Tournament in the U.S.A."
Action begins at 10 a.m. MT Sunday on 12 mats, with finals for weight classes scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.
Fans and media can click here for brackets and results. Updates also can be found on Wyoming Wrestling's Twitter feed and a full recap will be on wyomingathletics.com after the day's action is wrapped up.
The Cowboys won their first-ever title at the RTOC last season, beating out Boise State for the team crown by 1.5 points. As a team, Wyoming went 40-20 in its matches, and had two first-, one second-, one third- and a fifth-place finish. Among the place winners were seniors Joe LeBlanc (184 pounds) and Shane Onufer (165), each of whom won their weight class. Onufer went 6-0, with one fall and two major decisions, and was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler. Now departed Cole Dallaserra (149) was second and 141-pound senior Chase Smith was fifth. Tyler Cox, who is redshirting this season, was third at 125 pounds.
What's at stake
Wyoming coach Mark Branch expects his wrestlers to be ready, with last year's experience fresh in their minds.
"That was a breakthrough performance for our program. We didn't go there with our sights set on winning the tournament. We're not thinking about defending that title," Branch said. "It's still about, at this time of the year, getting these guys individually to the next level. I think we have guys that are about to break through and have some good really good performances. They're getting better every week and they're right there on the brink of wrestling up to their capabilities."
Wyoming has performed very well in tournaments this season, but has dropped its only dual, falling to Nebraska 19-15. The RTOC will be a chance for the Cowboys to get a taste of winning again.
"Last year we came in as a pretty heavy underdog to Boise State, who at the time was ranked in the top five in the country," Branch said. "I know Oklahoma State is going to be back this year (with their starters). It's a challenge we're looking forward to and we're glad we get to see some new competition. It'll help us out with figuring out some things with our individual dual with (Oklahoma State), because I'm sure we'll get them in some individual matchups. Our focus is broad, and it's looking at each individual guy and getting them through their bracket. I think we'll come out very well as a team. I expect us to bounce back from our loss at Nebraska."