CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Five Cowboys were victorious in their matches and the University of Wyoming wrestling team won a closely contested conference dual Thursday over the Air Force Academy, 17-16.
The 22nd-ranked Cowboys (9-6 overall, 4-1 Western Wrestling Conference) won their fifth-straight dual versus the Academy (10-4, 1-3 WWC), but had to fight off a scrappy Falcon squad until the last match. Despite losing, sophomore heavyweight Leland Pfeifer sealed the UW win when he gave up only a 12-6 decision with the Pokes leading 17-13 heading into the last match.
UW finished the regular season in second place in the WWC dual standings at 4-1, trailing North Dakota State, which went 5-0.
"I knew it would be really competitive and I knew there would be some toss-up matches," UW head coach Mark Branch said. "I was surprised how some matches went – pleasantly on some and disappointed, obviously, on others."
Wyoming began the dual on a three-match winning streak, starting off with sophomore 125-pounder Tyler Cox winning his fourth match against a ranked opponent this season. Cox, ranked 19th, defeated AFA's Josh Martinez, ranked 11th, in a 13-4 major decision. Senior Kasey Garnhart then was victorious in his final dual, beating Dylan Hyder of Air Force in a 6-2 decision at 133.
Shortly after, Cowboy senior McCade Ford earned a takedown with just 36 seconds left in the match to win a 3-1 decision over Carter McElhany at 141.
"After winning the first three matchups, I really thought we were in the driver's seat (in terms of) how the dual would go," Branch said.
When Air Force responded with wins at the next three weights to tie it up at 10-all, senior L.J. Helbig went to work to earn a tough 7-4 decision at 174 pounds to give UW the narrow 13-10 lead. After a loss at 184, fourth-ranked senior Alfonso Hernandez completed an unbeaten dual season (13-0), winning a 14-4 major decision to give UW the 17-13 cushion heading into the final bout.
UW will begin the postseason March 9, when the Cowboys host the WWC Championships/NCAA West Regional in Laramie, Wyo.
125: No. 19 Tyler Cox (WY) maj. dec. No. 11 Josh Martinez (AF), 13-4 WY 4, AF 0
133: Kasey Garnhart (WY) dec. Dylan Hyder (AF), 6-2 WY 7, AF 0
141: McCade Ford (WY) dec. Carter McElhany (AF), 3-1 WY 10, AF 0
149: No. 3 Cole VonOhlen (AF) dec. Brandon Richardson (WY), 9-3 WY 10, AF 3
157: No. 16 Josh Kreimier (AF) maj. dec. No. 12 Andy McCulley (WY), 13-5 WY 10, AF 7
165: Jesse Stafford (AF) dec. Dakota Friesth (WY), 5-1 WY 10, AF 10
174: L.J. Helbig (WY) dec. Dan Barringer (AF), 7-4 WY 13, AF 10
184: Devin Hightower (AF) dec. Shane Woods (WY), 3-1 SV1 WY 13, AF 13
197: No. 4 Alfonso Hernandez (WY) maj. dec. Josh Mohr (AF), 14-4 WY 17, AF 13
285: Bentley Alsup (AF) dec. Leland Pfeifer (WY), 12-6 WY 17, AF 16