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MEEKER I Former Meeker High School wrestler and state champion Joe LeBlanc won his first three matches in the NCAA Division I championships, advancing to the semifinal match in the 184-pound bracket, guaranteeing the redshirt Wyoming Cowboy sophomore All-American status for a second year in a row.
LeBlanc lost the semifinal match, which was televised on ESPN-U last Friday and the camera caught a brief shot of LeBlanc covering his face after being taken down in overtime.
“I was so close to my goal,” LeBlanc said in a phone conversation, on his way back to the University of Wyoming. “I didn’t get much sleep that night thinking about a couple of little things I could have done different that could have gone either way.”
LeBlanc did win an overtime match against John Dergo of Illinois, the No. 2 seed of the bracket, in the quarterfinal round.
“It was exciting and a big win for me,” LeBlanc said of the match against Dergo. “I’m happy to be an All-American again, but I’m definitely not satisfied, I want to be a national champion.”
LeBlanc, who earned All-American status last year with a fifth-place finish, entered this year’s national tournament as the No. 7 seed, with the most wins (35) of any of the 184-pound contenders. After the semifinal loss, LeBlanc would face Clayton Foster, the No. 5 seed from Oklahoma State. LeBlanc avenged a loss to Foster earlier in the season to advance to the consolation finals.
“He beat me in overtime in front of the biggest crowd ever to watch at the University of Wyoming, so I got a little revenge,” Leblanc said of the 8-3 victory over Foster.
LeBlanc then lost to Michael Cannon, the No. 4 seed, from American University in the consolation championship match.
“I will learn from the good experience and it will give me some fire to keep going, I still have a lot of work to do,” LeBlanc said.
Several of LeBlanc’s family members and friends traveled to Omaha, Neb., for the NCAA tournament.
“The whole national tournament is an amazing experience to be a part of,” LeBlanc said. “I praise God for keeping me healthy and putting me in this situation. All the glory belongs to him.”