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Kevin Schnepf, Published February 08 2010

College wrestling: Cowboys end Bison 6-match win streak

It’s not Oklahoma State. But Mark Branch has Wyoming winning like one of the most storied wrestling programs in NCAA history.

Wyoming, relying on three sophomores who are ranked nationally, ended North Dakota State’s six-match winning streak Sunday with a

25-15 win at the Bison Sports Arena.

“Those are sophomores who have the match experience of juniors,” said Wyoming head coach Mark Branch, a two-time national champion and a 10-year assistant coach at Oklahoma State.

Unfortunately for the Bison, those sophomores wrestle at weight classes which NDSU normally wins. No. 9-ranked Shane Onufer posted a major decision at 165 pounds over Tyler Johnson, No. 9 Joe LeBlanc produced a technical fall at 184 on Kenny Moenkedick and No. 12 Michael Martinez ended the match with a major decision at 125 over Justin Solberg.

“As a rule, we usually win at those weights,” said head coach Bucky Maughan, whose team falls to 9-5 overall and 2-1 in the Western Wrestling Conference. “Nobody is going to beat those three. They are just too much man. We knew Wyoming had a very good team.”

Just how good has Wyoming become in Branch’s second year as head coach?

Improving to 10-3 overall and 5-0 in the Western Wrestling Conference, the Cowboys moved closer to their goal ending Northern Iowa’s 24-year hold on the NCAA West Regional title. Last week, Wyoming broke a nine-match losing streak to Northern Iowa that dated back to 1964.

All three of Wyoming’s losses have come against nationally ranked teams (No. 24 Michigan State

20-13, No. 24 Oregon 28-8 and No. 4 Oklahoma State 31-3). One of Wyoming’s wins was a 29-10 win over No. 14 Nebraska – its first win over the Huskers since 1986.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Branch, who sported a young lineup with five sophomores, three freshmen and only one junior and one senior.

Likewise, NDSU has made a lot of progress.

The Bison managed to post their six-match winning streak, giving up six points in each match with a forfeit at 133 pounds. Three of their four losses have come against nationally-ranked opponents (No. 24 Oregon 42-0, No. 14 Nebraska 33-9 and No. 19 Cal-Poly 29-9).

But NDSU’s big moment so far this season was its

25-22 win over No. 6 Boise State last month.

“That was big news even for us,” said Branch. “I’ve seen a big difference in them (NDSU). Actually, I want to see them do well. If they are going to raise their level, it will only raise our level.

“I know I wanted to beat them today. But all of us in this conference are in it together. We want to send as many kids as we can to that national tournament so we can gain some respect.”

Wyoming 25, NDSU 15

125: Michael Martinez (W) maj. dec. Justin Solberg, 14-5

133 pounds: Cory VomBaur (W) win by forfeit

141: Ryan Adams (NDSU) dec. Kasey Garnhart, 6-2

149: Andrey Patselov (NDSU) dec. Chase Smith, 3-2

157: Vince Salminen (NDSU) dec. Jimmy Belleville, 7-2

165: Shane Onufer (W) maj. dec. Tyler Johnson, 14-4

174: Brock Smith (W) dec. Mac Stoll, 7-2

184: Joe LeBlanc (W) tech. fall Kenny Moenkedick, 18-2 (6:20)

197: Alfonso Hernandez (W) dec. Drew Ross, 15-8

Heavyweight: Will Johnson (NDSU) pinned L.J. Helbig, :59

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549