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Western Wrestling Conference
Western Wrestling Conference Announces 2010-11 Postseason Award Winners
UVU's Kjar named Wrestler of the Year, UNI's Loder named Freshman of the Year and Wyoming's Branch named Coach of the Year.
April 5, 2011
OREM, Utah ? As voted by its coaches, the Western Wrestling Conference has announced postseason award winners for the 2010-11 season. Utah Valley senior 125-pounder Ben Kjar was named WWC Wrestler of Year, 184-pound Northern Iowa redshirt freshman Ryan Loder was the unanimous WWC Freshman of the Year and Wyoming head man Mark Branch was chosen by his peers as the WWC Coach of the Year.
The Wrestler of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards were voted on by the league?s head coaches this past week, while the Coach of the Year balloting was determined after the West Regional Tournament.
Wrestler of the Year: Ben Kjar (Utah Valley), 125 lbs., Sr., Centerville, Utah (Viewmont HS)
Following up on a dominant career at UVU, Kjar became the underdog story of the NCAA Championships as he went from unseeded to place fourth at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia. With the placement Kjar became Utah Valley?s first-ever All-American. On his way through the bracket, he upset No. 4 seed James Nicholson (Old Dominion), No. 5 seed Zachary Sanders (Minnesota) and No. 7 seed Ryan Mango (Stanford) at Nationals. Kjar also found himself in the semifinals against the No. 1 seed and eventual champion Anthony Robles (Arizona State) and Kjar gave his undefeated opponent his closest match of the season at 4-2.
At the West Regional the No. 2 seeded Kjar was upset in his first bout of the tournament and almost didn?t even make it to Nationals as he had to wrestle all the way back to earn his qualifying spot. Kjar did just that however as he went on to win his next four matches in a row. He finished the season with a 30-8 overall record. Kjar also posted an 8-1 dual mark and also went a solid 11-2 versus WWC opponents on the year.
Kjar was ranked No. 11 in the final NCAA Coaches Rankings at 125 pounds and was No. 8 in the final RPI. He was named the WWC Wrestler of the Week on Jan. 5 after he placed third at the Southern Scuffle with a 5-1 record. Kjar won the Cowboy Open, placed second at the Kaufman-Brand Open and seventh at the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. He will leave UVU as its most winningest wrestler in school history as he?s compiled a career 129-35 mark. He was also recently named the 2010-11 D1CollegeWrestling.net WWC Wrestler of the Year.
Freshman of the Year: Ryan Loder (Northern Iowa), 184 lbs., RFr., Granite Bay, Calif. (Granite Bay HS)
Loder was the Panthers? standout performer during the 2010-11 season, finishing as the West Regional champion at 184 pounds to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. In the finals of the regional tournament, Loder defeated now three-time All-American and No. 1 seed Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) 4-3 to win his first regional crown.
Loder entered the NCAA championships as the No. 6 seed and advanced to the round of 12 before bowing out to eventual All-American and No. 4 seeded Travis Rutt (Wisconsin) by a narrow 4-2 margin. He finished the season with a 30-11 overall record, which lead UNI in wins. Loder also finished his Western Wrestling Conference dual season with a 4-1 record, falling only to Wyoming?s LeBlanc by a narrow 6-5 margin. He also won 23 of his last 28 matches, including a string of 12 straight wins that included victories over six ranked opponents.
A three-time WWC Wrestler of the Week, Loder recorded six wins by fall, six by major decisions and three by technical falls while having none of those verdicts scored against him. Loder placed fifth at the prestigious Midlands Championships and posted three consecutive wins over ranked opponents during the 2011 National Duals, upsetting No. 12 Mike Larson (Missouri), 3-1, Ohio State?s No. 20-ranked Cody Magrum, 6-4, and No. 11 Chris Perry (Oklahoma State), 8-2. He was also recently named the 2010-11 D1CollegeWrestling.net West WWC Freshman of the Year.
Coach of the Year: Mark Branch (Wyoming)
Branch, who just completed his third season as the Cowboys? head coach, was named the 2010-11 WWC Coach of the Year. The honor is Branch?s second during his tenure at Wyoming, as he was previously named the Coach of the Year following his first season, 2008-09. Branch led his team to their second consecutive West Regional/WWC Tournament Championship as his Cowboys led the way at the qualifying tournament with 93 points, finishing six points ahead of UNI who placed second. He also led Wyoming to a second place WWC regular season finish with a 5-1 dual record in league matches. He also helped Wyoming qualify six wrestlers to the NCAA Championships -- three more than any other school in the conference -- and coached two more All-Americans as 165-pounder Shane Onufer placed fifth and 184-pounder Joe LeBlanc finished sixth at the championships.
The Western Wrestling Conference is comprised of seven schools including the Air Force Academy, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming. The conference formed in April 2006.