Cowboys Wrestlers Head East to Open Dual Competition

From the desk of Harry Endicott

LARAMIE – The 21st-ranked Wyoming wrestling team opens its 2018-19 dual season this week in the Northeast Duals in Troy, N.Y., before an appearance at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. The Cowboys will take on Virginia at 10 a.m. MT on Saturday before a matchup against Edinboro that day at noon MT.

“This is going to be a good test for us,” head coach Mark Branch said. “These are teams we don’t see very often, and that’s the advantage of going out and traveling that far east. They aren’t very familiar with us either. At this point in the year, it’s early enough that you just want to see your guys hustle and fight. Good things will happen if we do that, so we’re just going to go out and enjoy the experience.

“I think the format of this event is unique and is going to give our young guys an opportunity to compete because the next day when they put them in pools, they’re going to be competitive pools, and I don’t think our guys are going to be overwhelmed, but they’ll have a chance to go in and compete at the level that they’re at.”

On Sunday a number of Cowboys will compete individually at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic, which is set to begin at 7 a.m. MT. At the event, the Cowboys will go up against wrestlers from a talented group of teams that includes North Carolina State, Lehigh, Oklahoma, Lock Haven, Appalachian State, Virginia, Bloomsberg, Army, Sacred Heart, Nebraska, Purdue, Drexel, Utah Valley, Edinboro, Hofstra and The Citadel.

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.

Branch returns three NCAA qualifiers from a season ago including All-American Montorie Bridges. The Cowboy lineup is a young one, with nine of the 12 potential starters this week being either redshirt freshmen or sophomores.

“Hopefully we’re going to benefit quite a bit by wrestling this event, but these two duals are exciting because we have a tough dual schedule and we want to challenge this young team to see what we’re made of,” Branch said. “We need to go out and prove that we’re going to be a good dual team and it starts this weekend.”

Virginia enters this weekend’s contest with a 1-0 record after opening its season last Saturday with a 25-12 win over Indiana in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers welcome back five NCAA qualifiers from a season ago, including sophomore Louie Hayes, who is ranked No. 7 at 125 pounds by Intermat. Virginia went 4-10 in dual action last season with an 0-5 mark in conference play, but head coach Steve Garland will look to right the ship in 2018-19, entering his 13th season as head coach of his alma mater with a 147-77 overall record.

The Cowboys and Cavaliers will be meeting for the sixth time ever on Saturday. The series between Wyoming and Virginia dates back to 1987, with the previous five matches having been wrestled at the Virginia Duals in Charlottesville. Wyoming leads the series, 3-2, including wins in the last two contests.

Edinboro is set to open its dual action this weekend with matchups against the Cowboys and The Citadel. Edinboro is coming off an 8-5 season last year but face the prospect of replacing five former NCAA qualifiers. The Fighting Scots have two returning starters from last year in 165-pounder Fritz Hoehn and 197-pounder Dylan Reynolds. There’s a new head coach taking over in Edinboro as well, with former Kent State assistant coach Matt Hill taking the reins after former lead man Tim Flynn accepted the head coaching job at West Virginia following 21 years leading the Fighting Scots.

The Cowboys and Fighting Scots will be meeting for the second time ever on Saturday. Wyoming won the only previous contest in the series, 23-16, in 2004.

Fans can stream all of the action this weekend live on FloWrestling.