Courtesy Wyoming Media Relations
Senior Alfonso Hernandez made sure his national title hopes were alive and well Thursday night, as he went 2-0 on Day One of the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
In addition to Hernandez, four other Cowboys won at least one match Thursday and the University of Wyoming wrestling team was tied for 16th in the team standings after the first day.
Hernandez dominated Thursday, winning two matches via bonus points. The fourth-seeded senior began the tournament by defeating Caleb Kolb of Nebraska for the second time this season, outworking Kolb in a 15-5 major decision. In the next round, he dismantled Eastern Michigan's Nick Whitenburg in a 19-4 technical fall. He will face Oregon State's Taylor Meeks in the quarterfinals, an opponent he has beaten twice this season.
"I thought Fonz looked really good. I was proud of the way he was aggressive," UW head coach Mark Branch said. "Fonz has dreams, not only to be an All-American but to wrestle for a national title, and he's got two tough matches tomorrow."
Sophomore Tyler Cox had a good start to his day, but ended up with a disappointing result. Cox showed great scrambling ability in his first match versus Nick Soto of Chattanooga, turning several of Soto's attacks into his own offense in a 14-2 major decision. But he couldn't fight off Dominic Parisi of Appalachian State in the next round, dropping a 5-4 decision. With two seconds left, Cox appeared to have earned a winning takedown, but the mat official ruled the action occurred out of bounds. UW coaches challenged the call, but no points were awarded.
Cox now faces Nikko Triggas (Ohio State) in the consolation bracket on Saturday morning.
Senior L.J. Helbig wrestled in the 174-pound preliminary match, and withstood an early barrage from Austin Gabel of Virginia Tech to grind out a gutty 5-3 decision in sudden victory. But he dropped his next two matches and was eliminated. Sophomores Andy McCulley (0-2 at 157) and Shane Woods (0-2 at 184) also were eliminated.
Wyoming got inspiring performances from senior McCade Ford (141) and sophomore Brandon Richardson (149), each of whom won a match in the wrestleback bracket after losing their first bout.
"I'm proud of those guys for fighting back," Branch said. "I'm not OK with going 0-2 here. We're not that kind of program. But I'm proud of the way these guys wrestled back. These are battles."
Four Cowboys are alive in their brackets, but it will take more solid efforts to keep it going Friday.
"We've got to come back with more attitude and more fight in us tomorrow," Branch said. "It's a complete marathon. This is where you see how bad you want it. There's no easy matches from here on out."
Action continues Friday on Day Two, beginning at 9 a.m. MT with Session III. Session IV begins at 5 p.m.
12th-seed Tyler Cox, 125 pounds (1-1)
Championship first round: Cox maj. dec. Nick Soto (Chattanooga), 14-2
Championship second round: Dominic Parisi (Appalachian State) dec. Cox, 5-4
McCade Ford, 141 pounds (1-1)
Championship first round: Ninth-seed Richard Durso (Franklin and Marshall) dec. Ford, 6-1
Consolation first round: Ford dec. Luke Goettl (Iowa State), 9-3
Brandon Richardson, 149 pounds (1-1)
Championship first round: Eighth-seed Nick Brascetta (Virginia Tech) dec. Richardson, 7-4
Consolation first round: Richardson fall (4:44) Ronnie Garbinsky (Pittsburgh)
Andy McCulley, 157 pounds (0-2)
Championship first round: Scott Winston (Rutgers) dec. McCulley, 4-2
Consolation first round: Nestor Taffur (Boston) dec. McCulley, 12-6
L.J. Helbig, 174 pounds (1-2)
Championship preliminary: Helbig dec. Austin Gabel (Virginia Tech), 5-3 SV1
Championship first round: Seventh-seed Jordan Blanton (Illinois) maj. dec. Helbig, 12-1
Consolation first round: 10th-seed Dan Yates (Michigan) dec. Helbig, 6-2
Shane Woods, 184 pounds (0-2)
Championship first round: Seventh-seed Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) maj. dec. Woods, 13-4
Consolation first round: Stephen Doty (Virginia) dec. Woods, 6-2
Fourth-seed Alfonso Hernandez, 197 pounds (2-0)
Championship first round: Hernandez maj. dec. Caleb Kolb (Nebraska), 15-5
Championship second round: Hernandez tech. fall Nick Whitenburg (Eastern Michigan), 19-4
Northern Iowa, 9
Oregon State, 9
T16. Wyoming, 5
Session II begins at 5:30 p.m. MT.