Thrilling Final Round Highlights Wyoming's Fourth-Straight NCAA West Regional Crown
March 9, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The quest for four-straight NCAA West Regional team titles came down to the final matches Saturday in Laramie, as the University of Wyoming wrestling team battled hard to claim the team championship.
In front of 1,155 fans in the Arena-Auditorium, UW clawed back from an 11-point Session I deficit and came alive in the finals to total 79 team points, three points better than second-place North Dakota State. The Cowboys, with all 10 wrestlers in the consolation and championship finals, won nine of 10 bouts, but got some assistance from Utah Valley's heavyweight to keep NDSU out of the team lead in the last scoring bout.
The win marks four-consecutive West Regional victories for Wyoming and head coach Mark Branch. The event also served as the Western Wrestling Conference Championship. After Wyoming and North Dakota State, Utah Valley was third (70), Air Force was fourth and South Dakota State was fifth with 16.5 points.
"That's what I've been waiting to see all year, for all 10 guys to wrestle with their heart and wrestle for each other," Branch said. "We needed to be close to perfect today to win. We spent most of the tournament in fourth place. Going into the last session, you're thinking we're in deep trouble but we're not mathematically eliminated. It was cool to see these guys come together and wrestle for each other and fight their tails off."
Four Cowboys won their weight class, including senior McCade Ford at 141 pounds, senior L.J. Helbig at 174, sophomore Shane Woods at 184 and senior Alfonso Hernandez at 197, who won for the second-straight year. Two other UW grapplers are headed to nationals, including sophomore Brandon Richardson (third at 149) and sophomore Tyler Cox, who was third at 125. The six qualifiers represent the same total from 2011 and 2012. Nine Cowboys placed third or better in the event.
"You can go up and down the lineup to find inspiring performances," Branch said. "Cox coming back after a tough first-round loss and getting a pin, McCade Ford fighting from the third seed to get first, Brandon Richardson fighting from a fifth seed to get third and qualify for nationals, L.J. Helbig, Shane Woods, Hernandez. It was a team effort and we've preached that all year long. For it to finally happen, it certainly was the right time."
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 on March 13. All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Championships will be March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.
133: Kasey Garnhart (1-2), Fourth place
141: McCade Ford (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
149: Brandon Richardson (2-1), Third place, NCAA Qualifier
157: Andy McCulley (2-1), Third place
165: Dakota Friesth (2-1), Third place
174: L.J. Helbig (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
184: Shane Woods (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
197: Alfonso Hernandez (2-0), First place, NCAA Qualifier
285: Leland Pfeifer (2-1), Third place
Final Team Scores