Alumni watch: LeBlanc falls just short of his goal of national title
His bracket was loaded with returning All-Americans, but Joe LeBlanc had his sights set on a national wrestling title.
The 2007 Meeker High School graduate fell short of his goal, but earned All-American status again.
The 184-pound University of Wyoming sophomore placed fourth in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships last weekend in Omaha. He placed fifth as a freshman.
“I definitely didn’t accomplish my goal, but I was top five again,” LeBlanc said. “Only 10 (wrestlers) can come away satisfied (with a national title).”
LeBlanc (39-6) was seeded seventh in the tournament and upset the No. 2 seed en route to the semifinals, guaranteeing him All-American status for the second year in a row.
“My quarterfinal match was wild,” LeBlanc said. “It was back and forth. I was up 4-0 and was pumped up. I looked at the clock and there was 61⁄2 minutes left. I thought, ‘crap, there’s a lot of time left.’ He took it to overtime. I took him down to win. That was one of the most exciting wins of my life.”
LeBlanc was in a similar situation in the semifinal against Maxwell Askren of Missouri. LeBlanc scored an early takedown, near-fall combination for a 5-2 lead, but Askren came back and forced overtime by accruing enough riding time despite LeBlanc’s efforts to score an escape point and secure the win. In overtime, Askren scored a takedown to win.
“Losing like that makes it that much harder,” LeBlanc said. “I was right there and let it slip through my hands. He worked hard and deserved it. His brother (Ben Askren) is an amazing wrestler, too. He was a two-time national champ.”
LeBlanc was able to get a new start on the final day of the tournament and win his consolation semifinal match to get into the third-place match. He avenged an earlier season loss, defeating fifth-seeded Clayton Foster of Oklahoma State 8-3.
“I got refocused,” LeBlanc said. “I had some revenge to get. We dualed Oklahoma State earlier in the year and had it in our basketball arena as a promotional dual. I lost in overtime to him. I opened up and felt like I wrestled my best match.”
LeBlanc, though, lost a 7-2 decision to American University’s Michael Cannon in the third-place match.
Although LeBlanc wanted a national title, earning All-American honors for the second consecutive year capped a very unique year.
LeBlanc got married, had a son and lost the man he’s known as his father, Bren Sullivan.
“It was hard,” LeBlanc said. “He would always call me and let me know who did what (in wrestling). He taught me a lot of what I know now.”
Here’s a look at how some college athletes with local ties fared recently:
Branden Jamison (Central, 2008), Neosho County (Kan.) Community College: The sophomore pitcher has notched the most appearances for the 11-7 Panthers with six. Jamison has a 3.00 ERA with a 2-0 record and eight strikeouts.
Mick Ritter (Central, 2008), Neosho County (Kan.) Community College: The sophomore infielder has seen action in 12 games with one start. Ritter has a .182 batting average, but has driven in two runs in his 11 at-bats.
Ryan Bernal (Grand Junction, 2006) Brigham Young University: The junior outfielder has started 15 games with a .291 batting average. Bernal is second on the team with 15 RBI and leads the Cougars with five home runs. Bernal recently help the Cougars upset No. 4 TCU 5-4.
Dan Kraft (Grand Junction, 2007), Colorado College: The junior earned All-Academic honors, posting a 3.3 GPA and finishing among the top 35 at the NCAA Division III regional meet. The chemistry major placed 18th at regionals last fall.
Tucker Lane (Nucla, 2007), University of Nebraska: The sophomore heavyweight (21-11) went 1-2 in the NCAA Division I tournament. He won a 2-1 decision in the first round but lost 4-3 in the second round and 3-1 in his first wrestleback match.