Onufer Finishes Fifth and LeBlanc Sixth on Final Day of NCAA Championships
March 19, 2011
Wyoming junior Shane Onufer went 1-1 on Saturday to claim fifth place overall in the 165-pound weight class during the third and final day of the 2011 NCAA Championships at the Wells Fargo Center, while junior Joe LeBlanc was forced to forfeit his final two matches to finish sixth in the nation at 184 pounds after missing weight. The Cowboy duo claimed the program's 26th and 27th All-America honors, the most since 1996, but UW dropped to 28th in the final team standings after having to forfeit LeBlanc's team points.
"It's a real tragedy for Joe's tournament to end that way," Branch said. "We've struggled all year to keep his weight up. For this to happen to him is mind blowing. It's horrible for something like that to happen at a stage like this.
"We got here an hour early and Joe checked his weight. For whatever reason, whether there was an error in the scale when he checked his weight or whether he misread it, something happened. He sat around waiting for weigh-ins for an hour and he was a few tenths over and didn't know it.
"If kids are heavy, they know they are heavy. Every once in a while you'll see kids working out until the time the scales close. That wasn't the case. If Joe would've known he was a few tenths over, it would've taken him about five minutes to lose it."
Onufer capped off the tournament by placing two spots higher than his No. 7 seed with a 5-4 decision over No. 4 seeded Josh Asper of Maryland in the fifth-sixth place match. The Terrapin used a first-period takedown to take the early lead, but Onufer earned a reversal in the third to tie the match and a takedown with 24 seconds left to seal the win. Asper had previously defeated Onufer 3-2 at the NWCA All-Star Classic last November and knocked the Cowboy out of last year's NCAA Championships with a 9-1 major decision.
In his first match of the day, Onufer squared off with No. 5 Colt Sponseller of Ohio State and fell 4-2 in a tight battle. Neither wrestler scored a point in the first period, before the Buckeye picked up two nearfall points early in the second and rode Onufer the entire period. Onufer got a takedown in the third, but couldn't overcome the deficit. Onufer finished 5-2 at the NCAA Championships for a 34-4 overall record on the season and posted a team-high nine pins to move to ninth on UW's all-time falls list with 31.
"I'm proud of the way Shane came back and beat a kid who's been one of the top kids in the country all year," Branch said. "That's the way you want to finish your tournament, with a win. I think that's the greatest thing you can do, no matter if you're All-American, is to finish with a win. I'm proud of what he accomplished here. That's a really big stepping stone for our program."
After racking up four consecutive wins on Friday, LeBlanc missed weight by just half a pound on Saturday morning and forfeited his final two matches and all the team points he had accrued in the tournament. LeBlanc finished sixth despite having being disqualified from Saturday's two matches. He entered the tournament seeded fifth. Student-athletes must weight in each morning during the three-day tournament and are allowed one extra pound each of the final two days. LeBlanc's 5-1 record at the event put him at 29-3 for the season and moved him into sixth on UW's all-time wins list at 113. He trails fifth-place Chris Bell (1979-83) by just one victory.
Final team standings and brackets, including full play-by-play results for UW's wrestlers, can be found by clicking on the links above. Five of Wyoming's six wrestlers who qualified for and competed in this year's NCAA Championships have eligibility remaining for the Cowboys. In addition to juniors Onufer and LeBlanc, fellow junior Michael Martinez at 125 pounds, redshirt freshman Patrick Martinez at 174 and sophomore Lee Helbig at 197 will all return for the Cowboys. Only senior Cole Dallaserra at 149 pounds concluded his Cowboy career at the NCAA Championships.
"I think we had a good chance to not only finish in the top 15, but maybe as high as 12th," UW head coach Mark Branch said. "If that happens, it's obviously huge for our program. From that standpoint, a possible top-15 finish was looking very doable."
2011 NCAA Championships
Final Team Standings