Cowboy Wrestlers Take Center Stage at Cowboy Open
From the Desk of Harry Endicott
LARAMIE – Nine members of the Wyoming wrestling team took home titles at the season-opening Cowboy Open on Saturday at War Memorial Fieldhouse.
Seven Cowboys earned titles in the Elite division while two Pokes snagged titles in the Amateur division. Cowboy freshman Cole Moody was also named Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Amateur division. Wyoming had eight finalists in the Elite bracket, going seven-for-eight in the finals with an additional three third-place finishers.
“I like the fact that in the Elite division we had eight in the finals and we won seven of them,” head coach Mark Branch said. “Some of them were tight, hard-fought matches, but we had a lot of improvement. We had some guys that were too conservative and didn’t open up their attacks, but other than that I didn’t see any overwhelmingly glaring negatives. Most of our guys got off bottom pretty well…Overall, I thought it was a good start and we walk away pretty healthy too which is important as well.”
Redshirt sophomore Montorie Bridges was the first Cowboy to pick up a championship on the day, going 4-0 in the Elite 133-pound bracket to take top honors at the weight. Bridges recorded a trio of decisions to advance to the finals, where he defeated John Twomey of Air Force, 6-2, in the finals to secure his title.
Sam Turner also went 4-0, taking the title at 141 pounds. Turner opened the day with a first-period fall over Armando Santillan of Northern Colorado in the first round, before adding decisions over Air Force’s Lenny Petersen and Nebraska-Kearney’s Jonathan Killingsworth to set up his 16-4 major decision finals win over Chance Karst of Chadron State.
At 149 pounds, Cowboy Jaron Jensen had an impressive day on the way to taking that bracket’s championship. Jensen picked up three decisions in the opening three rounds before a 6-4 win over Air Force’s Alec Opsal in the finals to lock up his title. Cowboy Jed Loveless rebounded after a tough first-round loss, streaking his way through the wrestlebacks with a decision, a major decision and two falls—including a pin in sudden victory in the third-place match over Jacob Wasser.
Dewey Krueger took the top spot at 157 pounds in the Elite division. After receiving a bye in the first round, Krueger opened his day with a third-period fall over Chadron State’s Jake Otuafi in the quarterfinals before a 7-1 decision over Utah Valley’s Spencer Heywood in the semis and a 5-2 win over Nebraska-Kearney’s Matt Malcom in the finals.
Senior Branson Ashworth made it six-straight titles for Wyoming, blazing through the 165-pound bracket with four tech falls in as many matches. Ashworth made quick work of Montana State-Northern’s Andrew Bartel in the finals, running up a 16-1 tech in just 2:40.
Redshirt freshman Hayden Hastings had an impressive day Saturday, taking first in the 174 Elite bracket. Hastings allowed only four points against him on the day, including a solid sudden victory 4-2 win in the finals against DJ Shannon.
Cale Davidson claimed the seventh Elite title of the night, going 3-0 at 197 pounds. Davidson outscored his first two opponents by a combined score of 16-0 to cruise into the finals, where he dropped Montana State-Northern’s Isaac Bartel, 3-2.
Junior Cole Verner made the finals at 125 pounds, taking his first three matches—including a 16-15 shootout in the semis—before dropping his finals match, 9-5, to Air Force’s Sidney Flores.
Redshirt freshman Carless Looney finished third at 184 pounds. After a fall to open his day, Looney came up just short in a 7-5 loss to Connor Ventura. Looney would bounce back, however, going 4-0 including a couple of pins in the wrestlebacks to take third.
At heavyweight, Cowboy newcomer Brian Andrews took third, bouncing back from a tough loss in the semis with a tech fall and major decision in the wrestlebacks.
The Pokes had two champions and two other finalists in the Amateur division, including Most Outstanding Wrestler Cole Moody. Moody went 4-0 on the day at 174 pounds, including a fall, technical fall and major decision. The major came in the finals over Montana State-Northern’s Chase Short—a 10-1 win for the Cowboy freshman.
Freshman Tate Samuelson took first at 184 pounds, going 4-0 with a 4-1 win over Xavier Vasquez of Northern Colorado in the finals.
Jacob Greenwood made the finals at 149 pounds, wrestling five matches and recording bonus points in three of them—two falls and a major decision. Greenwood came up short, 8-6, in the finals to Utah Valley’s Cameron Haddock.
Freshman Trevor Jeffries went 4-1 to finish second at 141 pounds. Jeffries recorded a tech fall in the quarterfinals and a pin in the semis before falling, 9-3, in the finals to Gabe Tagg.
The Cowboys will open their dual schedule next Saturday at the Northeast Duals in Troy, N.Y., where they will face off with Virginia and Edinboro.
“Now we have enough information to set our lineup for New York,” Branch said. “That’s important, and to be honest we had question marks at 149, and Jaron had a really outstanding tournament. We had question marks at 174 and Hayden put together a really solid tournament. Those were really good surprises. Other than that, I can’t say I was super surprised, but we didn’t have those answers heading into this, and it could’ve been one of several guys. Those guys have really established themselves at this point, but it’s a long season and they need to continue to improve. We’ll take it week by week.”