Two Cowboy Wrestlers Earn All-America Status
March 16, 2012
ST. LOUIS -
What started out as a tough day for the University of Wyoming wrestling team culminated with two student-athletes earning All-America honors Friday in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
After starting the event with a 9-3 team record on the first day, the Pokes went 0-6 in the morning session as all six qualifiers lost. The evening session was slightly better, as senior Joe LeBlanc and redshirt junior Alfonso Hernandez each won their opening matches in the consolation quarterfinals to assure themselves of a top-eight finish. That gave each All-American distinction.
The Cowboys sit in 19th out of 70 teams with 28 team points, just four points out of 15th place. LeBlanc will wrestle for seventh/eighth place Saturday morning, while Hernandez will wrestle to get into the third/fourth-place match.
"As a coach you never go to this tournament without dealing with some heartache," Wyoming coach Mark Branch said. "We had our share of heartache and disappointment today. We didn't wrestle well today. When the ball starts rolling in the wrong direction, it's hard to get it stopped and turned in the right direction. We saw a domino effect to some degree. It's a crazy tournament and crazy things happen to everybody.
"You look at what could have been, but if you focus on that, you have a real sour taste in your mouth. It's a very inspiring and positive thing to come away with two All-Americans. Fonz's performance was inspirational today. He sucked it up and wrestled tough. Fonz isn't the most technical, prettiest wrestler out there, but he grinded out some tough victories today. He's come from nowhere and now sets himself up as one of the best 197-pounders in the country."
LeBlanc became UW's first four-time All-American by defeating Tony Dallago of Illinois in a 13-6 decision at 184 pounds. In the morning session, however, first-seeded LeBlanc gave up four early takedowns to ninth-seeded Austin Trotman (Appalachian State) to fall behind 8-4, but LeBlanc rallied back to tie it at 8-8 in the second period. Trotman then added two takedowns to seal the 12-9 decision when the buzzer sounded to send LeBlanc to the consolations.
Hernandez claimed his first All-America trophy by outworking Illinois' Mario Gonzalez at 197 in a 7-6 decision. He then grabbed a nice 2-1 decision over Penn's Micah Burak in the consolation semifinals to keep going in the tournament. Hernandez lost in the morning session when he took on top-seeded Cam Simaz of Cornell and dropped an 8-2 decision at 197 pounds, his first loss of the tournament.
UW's second-seeded senior Shane Onufer began the day with a tough loss to one of his most competitive rivals at 165 pounds, seventh-seeded Josh Asper of Maryland. Onufer beat Asper in last season's fifth/sixth-place match at nationals, but Friday, it was Asper's turn as he beat Onufer in a 5-3 decision. Onufer then dropped a 10-3 decision to Peter Yates of Virginia Tech.
Sophomore Pat Martinez went to his second overtime match of the tournament and fell to Ryan LeBlanc of Indiana in the second sudden-victory period, 5-3.
Senior Michael Martinez ended his UW career with a tough loss to Purdue's Camden Eppert in the 125-pound consolation bracket, in a 6-3 decision. Martinez was seventh in UW history with 116 wins.
Redshirt freshman Zach Zehner also had a disappointing end to his season, losing to Matthew Nelson of Virginia in the 133-pound wrestleback bracket. Zehner had a 6-0 lead in the first period, but dropped a 10-9 decision. Zehner had 29 wins for the year.
Zach Zehner, 133 (1-2)
No. 2 Shane Onufer, 165 (2-2)
Pat Martinez, 174 (1-2)
No. 1 Joe LeBlanc, 184 (3-2) All-American
No. 9 Alfonso Hernandez, 197 (4-1) All-American