By CARLON SCOTT
The focus of the Western Athletic Conference wrestling season shifts to Provo as the WAC Wrestling Championships come to the Smith Fieldhouse Saturday. Preliminary matches start at noon with the finals scheduled for that evening at 7. Fresno State comes in as the defending champions of the WAC.
The BYU wrestling team also has to be considered a contender for the title.
The Cougars only loss as a team this season within the WAC was to Fresno State by a score of 17-12.
BYU wrestling coach Mark Schultz likes his team’s chances in the tournament. “I think we’ve got a good shot. I think it will be between us and Fresno, if we wrestle the way that we have been wrestling all year,” he said.
Looking at the lineup for the Cougars, there should be some good competitive matches on Saturday.
At 118 pounds, BYU sophomore Jose Enriquez is looking strong coming into the tournament. But Enriquez has the biggest challenge of any Cougar wrestler, facing Stephen Abas of Fresno State, who has a season mark of 32-1 and comes in ranked third nationally at 118 pounds.
Schultz has seen Abas wrestle for the past few years. “Theoretically, he could be the second four-time NCAA champion in History, just coming to watch him is going to be worth it,” Schultz said.
It doesn’t get much easier for BYU Senior John Kelly at 126 pounds. Stan Greene of Fresno State is ranked 18th in the nation at that weight. Corey Hamrick of Wyoming is also a tough wrestler that has beat Kelly and lost to Kelly already this season. In addition, Kirk Eknes of Air Force comes in with a 24-11 record. The 126 pound class will probably be the toughest class at the tournament.
BYU sophomore Tom Meacham will wrestle at 134 pounds. Bryce Bochy of Wyoming should be the top-seeded opponent in his class. Schultz said he thinks Meacham will probably draw the third seed and avoid the extra match of the fourth and fifth slots.
BYU freshmen Collin Robertson will face the wrestler that took him out of the Top 20 earlier this season. Wyomings’ Jeff Tufano is currently ranked 20th, the same spot that Robertson held when the two met previously. Its a good bet that these two will duel it out in the finals to decide the 142-pound champion.
At 150 pounds, BYU junior Gary Sanderson will be looking for revenge on Saturday. Both Tim Cornish of Fresno State and Brian Wood of Wyoming beat Sanderson during the regular season.
BYU sophomore Brett Gappmayer will get a No. 1 seed on Saturday. Gappmayer’s solid record against WAC competition gives him the upper hand as he comes in undefeated in the WAC in the 158-pound class.
BYU junior Kris West is coming back from a couple injuries this season to wrestle in the tournament. West was injured just two weeks ago. But he was able to come back and win the challenge match this week in practice, to earn himself the starting spot at 167 pounds. Schultz hopes to get West a No. 3 seed to help the team start off in a stronger position in the tournament.
Sophomore Corey Anderson will wrestle at 177 pounds for the Cougars. Anderson will also benefit from an undefeated record in the WAC by getting a number one seeding in the tournament.
At 190 pounds, BYU Sophomore Jason Johnson will have to deal with Air Forces’ 16th-ranked Jake Sherer. Johnson is wrestling in his second match since coming back from a concussion.
BYU Freshmen Chris Miller has only lost to Jake Sherer of Air Force in a match that Sherer went up a class to compete in. Schultz feels that Miller has a good shot at taking the WAC Heavyweight class title.
The WAC wrestling championships will be a rare opportunity to see some of the best wrestlers in the nation in action.
Students can get into the meet for $4 per session or $7 for both sessions. Adult prices are $7 dollars per session and $13 for both sessions.