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Forum staff reports, Published February 17 2012

Wyoming wins big over BIson wrestling

FARGO – The University of Wyoming took a road trip through the Dakotas this week and found more victories than snow. The Cowboys put North Dakota State in the deep freeze on Friday – one day after shutting out South Dakota State.

The 31-6 dual win at the Bison Sports Arena clinched the regular season Western Wrestling Conference title, although the West Regional on March 3 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, carries significantly more importance.

“We started to look at postseason about a week ago and adjusted our training,” said Wyoming head coach Mark Branch. “I thought we looked a little tired today. I don’t think we were as fresh as we would want to be but it was a strong way to finish the dual season. Now is when it counts.”

It was the fourth straight win in the series, with NDSU’s last victory 29-10 in 2008.

It was the last home dual for NDSU, which still looks like a Division I team that just went through a reclassification. There wasn’t much hope against a Wyoming team that was ranked 11th in the last USA Today Division I Top 25 poll, has five nationally ranked wrestlers and seven with at least 20 wins.

“Tough team, real tough,” said NDSU sophomore Steven Monk. “That’s where I want to see our team in a few years.”

Monk was tough, real tough, once again and provided the noise for the home team, pinning Andy McCulley at 157 pounds. Monk, ranked 11th in the country, stuck an opponent who came in with 25 victories.

It was a nice tune-up for Cedar Falls.

“Obviously, winning the match was the first thing,” Monk said. “I wanted to finish the dual season with a bang and go into the tournament feeling good, and that’s what I did.”

Teammate Trent Sprenkle, the other Bison wrestler considered a major threat to qualify for the NCAA Division I championships, was not as fortunate.

No. 18 Michael Martinez stopped the 19th-ranked Sprenkle 5-2 at 125 pounds. An early takedown and a stalling point with 2 seconds left in the second period were costly to Sprenkle, who dropped to 27-10 overall.

It was the last home dual for four Bison seniors: Justin Solberg at 133, Mark Erickson at 149, Tyler Johnson at 165 and Mac Stoll at 184. Erickson and Stoll are listed as juniors eligibility-wise, but are seniors academically and may not return next year.

Stoll had the task of facing No. 1-ranked Joe LeBlanc, who improved to 26-1, 12-0 in duals, with an 18-3 win. Stoll battled, however, until losing a big chunk of points in the final minute.

“We have great leaders for our younger kids to look up to,” Branch said. “The key to our team is the younger kids are starting to develop.”

125: Martinez, UW, dec. Sprenkle, 5-2.

133: Zehner, UW, dec. Solberg, 8-5.

141: Smith, UW, dec. Diamond, 7-0.

149: Ford, UW, dec. Erickson, 5-2.

157: Monk, NDSU, pinned McCulley, 6:04.

165: Onufer, UW, dec. Garner, 10-2.

174: Martinez, UW, dec. Johnson, 7-2.

184: LeBlanc, UW, dec. Stoll, 18-3.

197: Hernandez, UW, dec. Gusewelle, 16-4.

Hwt.: Helbig, UW, dec. Knutson, 14-8.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia