Upperclassmen Lead Wyoming On Day One of NCAA Championships
March 15, 2012
ST. LOUIS -
Wyoming seniors Joe LeBlanc and Shane Onufer and redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez used their experience wisely Thursday at the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, as each advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective weights. As a team, UW won nine matches Thursday with just three losses.
Wyoming currently is 12th with 17.5 points, just a half point behind three schools tied for ninth.
LeBlanc went 2-0 through the 184-pound bracket, as the top-seeded senior rallied in both matches to come out on top. First, he beat Missouri's Mike Larson in a 9-4 decision after giving up an early takedown. In the second round, he gave up a takedown to Penn's Erich Smith but outscored him 11-1 the rest of the way for the major decision.
Senior Shane Onufer, seeded second, had the start he was looking for Thursday, as he gutted out a 4-1 decision over Benjamin Jordan of Wisconsin in the 165-pound bracket. Then, he rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the last two minutes of his bout with Daniel Yates of Michigan with a reversal and near-fall points to claim the 6-3 decision.
An NCAA Championships rookie, Hernandez looked anything but green in his first two matches, both wins for the ninth-seeded 197-pounder. A dominating 10-2 major decision over Daniel Mitchell of American started his day, and Hernandez then avenged a loss earlier in the season to Indiana's eight-seeded Matt Powless with a gritty 7-6 decision.
"I feel like our team is set up to perform better as the tournament goes on but it obviously gets tougher," UW head coach Mark Branch said. "I feel good about going 9-3 on the day. We had guys who stepped up and wrestled well. (Friday) is a big day, but it always feels good keeping all the guys in the tournament. That's big."
Senior Michael Martinez (125 pounds) got off to a shaky start, losing to Nicholas Megaludis of Penn State in the first round, but recovered nicely in the consolation bracket with a 7-2 decision over Buffalo's Max Soria.
Redshirt freshman Zach Zehner started his day with domination, but ran into some trouble in the second round at 133 pounds. Zehner defeated Old Dominion's Scott Festejo in a 21-6 technical fall to begin the day, and earned a matchup with Bernard Futrell of Illinois in the second round. Futrell, seeded fourth, pinned by Zehner in 1:06 and he went 1-1 for the day.
Sophomore Pat Martinez had a heartbreaking loss to start the day, falling to West Virginia's Lance Bryson in a 2-1 decision in overtime at 174 pounds. He recovered with a 12-4 major decision over Chattanooga's Levi Clemons to even up his record at 1-1.
Action starts at 9 a.m. MT Friday for Day Two of the NCAA Championships.
Zach Zehner, 133 (1-1)
No. 2 Shane Onufer, 165 (2-0)
Pat Martinez, 174 (1-1)
No. 1 Joe LeBlanc, 184 (2-0)
No. 9 Alfonso Hernandez, 197 (2-0)