Branch Looks for 100th Win as Cowboy Wrestling Coach

After easily picking up two Big 12 wins this past weekend, the No. 15 University of Wyoming wrestling team will make its way to fellow Big 12 foe Air Force on Friday to close out the 2017-18 regular season. Mark Branch’s 100th career win as head coach at Wyoming.

Live results can be found on Trackwrestling with live video on Flowrestling. Fans are also encouraged to follow @WyoWrestle on Twitter for updates throughout the dual.

Wyoming (12-3, 6-2 Big 12) only lost one of the ten bouts in each of the duals against nationally-ranked Utah Valley and Northern Colorado this past weekend. UW rolled to 38-4 victories in each dual. Wyoming has now won 25-straight against UNC, and ten against Utah Valley.

Air Force is coming off a big win against then-No. 25 Utah Valley on Saturday night. The 26-10 win was their first win against a top-25 team since head coach Sam Barber took the helm in 2014.

In the second coaches’ poll that came out on Feb. 8, Air Force had three wrestlers within the rankings. Anthony McLaughlin checked in at No. 31 at 197 pounds, Tony DeCesare is ranked at No. 32 in the 125 weight division, while Alex Mossing checks in at No. 33 for the 157 pounders.

Before earning the win against Utah Valley, Air Force had lost its previous three duals. The Falcons have a 7-4 overall record, with a 2-3 mark in Big 12 action.

Friday’s dual will be the 53rd meeting between the two schools. Wyoming leads the all-time series, 40-12 including the last nine duals. Mark Branch has not lost against Air Force while head coach in Laramie. UW easily handled Air Force a year ago, picking up a 29-9 victory at home. The Pokes won seven of the ten bouts last year against the Falcons. 

The Pokes made another jump in this week’s USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, moving up two sports to No. 15, which is UW’s highest team ranking in the coaches poll since being ranked tenth during the 2011-12 season. UW is 11th in the Trackwrestling team rankings, and 12th in the Flowrestling team rankings.

Meredith continues to dominate and with that there is no difference in the individual rankings for the Cheyenne native. He once again sits atop the 141 rankings to lead the Brown and Gold into the weekend. Montorie Bridges’ highest ranking comes in a No. 4 in the Trackwrestling individual rankings at 133 pounds. Colgan moved up a spot as the ninth-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds in the Flowrestling, Trackwrestling and InterMat individual rankings. Branson Ashworth sits at No. 13 at 165 pounds in all polls, while Sam Turner is No. 23 according to Trackwrestling.

The NCAA released the second coaches’ panel rankings for the 2017-18 wrestling season on Feb. 8. The final rankings will be one of the tools used as part of the selection process to determine the qualifiers for the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Two-time All-American Meredith leads UW as the top wrestler at 141 pounds. He is followed by Bridges ranked sixth at 133 pounds. Colgan is tenth at 157 pounds, while Ashworth is ranked 13th (165 pounds). Turner holds the 27th spot at 149 pounds. When looking at RPI, Meredith (sixth), Bridges (eighth), Ashworth (tenth) and Colgan (16th) are joined by Chaz Polson (30th) and Kyle Pope (32nd) in their respective weight classes.

For the second-straight season, Ashworth topped 30 wins for Wyoming. He currently leads the team with a 30-3 record and was the first to 30 wins this year. Bridges and Colgan are next closest with 28 wins each. Last year, Ashworth and Colgan each earned 36 wins to pace UW.

The victory on Saturday night brought the Brown and Gold to 5-0 at home this season. The last time Wyoming went undefeated at home was during the 2008-09 season when the Pokes went 4-0.  Wyoming is now 6-2 in Big 12 action this year. UW had won eight total conference duals the previous two seasons as a member of the Big 12. Additionally, the 12 wins this season becomes just the seventh time in the 93-year history of the program that UW had earned at least 12 dual wins in one season.

Probable Lineups against Air Force (7-4, 2-3 Big 12)

125: Tony DeCesare, Fr., (14-11, 4-5 duals) v. Drake Foster, So. (17-10, 7-6 duals)

133: Isaac Jimenez, Jr., (9-5, 2-2) v. Montorie Bridges, RFr. (28-3, 14-0)

141: Alec Opsal (12-4, 6-0) v. Bryce Meredith, Sr. (25-1, 15-0)

149: Dane Robbins, Sr., (15-9, 8-3) v. Sam Turner, RFr. (22-13, 10-5) / Ben Hornickle, So. (13-8, 0-0)

157: Alex Mossing, Jr., (12-6, 3-2) v. Archie Colgan, Sr. (28-7, 10-3)

165: Alex Lopouchanski, Jr., (8-6, 4-3) v. Branson Ashworth, Jr. (30-3, 14-1)

174: Michael Billingsley, Sr., (12-10, 4-4) v. Kyle Pope, Sr. (20-10, 10-4)

184: Zen Ikehara, Sr., (12-6, 5-3) v. Chaz Polson, Sr. (25-9, 7-5)

197: Anthony McLaughlin, Jr., (11-8, 5-3) v. Luke Paine, Sr. (3-1, 3-1)

285: Matt Wagner, So., (10-12, 3-6) v. Sam Eagan, Jr. (12-10, 6-4)

Tracy RingolsbyComment