Three Cowboys Collect Conference Tournament Titles
March 8, 2014
OREM, Utah -
Junior Tyler Cox led the charge Saturday as he and two other University of Wyoming wrestlers finished with conference crowns in the Western Wrestling Conference Championships/NCAA West Regional.
UW finished second in the team standings with 66 points, trailing North Dakota State by just eight points. Both teams had six championship finalists, and both won three. But NDSU won two consolation finals to outpace the Pokes. Along with Cox, UW redshirt freshman Benjamin Stroh and junior Shane Woods won titles, and junior Dakota Friesth was second. All four garnered automatic NCAA spots with the performances.
"We've got to walk away from this with a bitter taste in our mouth," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "As a whole, we didn't look exceptionally well. There were guys who I was expecting to have their best performances of the year and they didn't. When that happens, you have a rough go of it.
"We had some guys who took care of business in some tough matches. I thought Tyler was exceptional. He's the bright spot, definitely, along with Ben and Woody, and Dakota had a nice tournament. But it's disappointing. We had a lot of calls that didn't go our way. But when the dust settles, I look at why we didn't put ourselves in a position where those calls didn't matter."
Cox earned one of the biggest wins of his career when he defeated top-seeded and fourth-ranked Josh Martinez of Air Force in the 125-pound final. Cox was up 10-2 when Martinez was forced to take an injury default at 6:17, and Cox took the victory. Cox now is No. 20 all-time in UW history in career wins with 88.
Woods had two gritty wins for his second-straight conference crown. He was the 184-pound champion in 2013. He beat North Dakota State's Tyler Lehmann in the final 6-3.
Stroh was the 184-pound champion with two wins, becoming just the fifth UW freshman to win a WWC title. He upended North Dakota State's Kurtis Julson 8-5.
Friesth garnered an NCAA automatic bid by finishing second at 165 pounds, falling to NDSU's Steven Monk in the final. But with three automatic bids at the weight, Friesth will make his first trip to nationals.
Redshirt freshman Cole Mendenhall lost a heartbreaking 8-7 final match at 141 when it appeared he had tied it up at 8-8 with 15 seconds to go, but the officials overturned the call. At 157, junior Andy McCulley made the final but dropped a close 4-3 contest. He was forced into a true second-place match with Air Force's Josh Kreimier to determine NCAA qualification, which he lost, 8-4.
"Our focus is on our qualifiers. The best is yet to come," Branch said. "We have a great opportunity here in two weeks. We're going to have to wait and see on a couple of guys for wild cards, and I don't want to do that. But hopefully we can sneak a guy or two in."
After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in person to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, who will be announced March 12. All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Championships will be March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
133: Gunnar Woodburn (0-2)
141: Cole Mendenhall (1-1), Second place
149: Brandon Richardson (1-2)
157: Andy McCulley (1-2), Second place*
165: Dakota Friesth (1-1), Second place (NCAA Qualifier)
174: Brent Havlik (0-2)
184: Benjamin Stroh (2-0), First place (NCAA Qualifier)
197: Shane Woods (2-0), First place (NCAA Qualifier)
285: Tanner Harms (1-2), Fourth place