LARAMIE, Wyo. (Oct. 26, 2016) – This is the second of a three-part series that will preview the 2016-17 Cowboy wrestling team. This release looks at the 149, 157 and 165-pound weight classes.
There are plenty of returning Cowboy wrestlers that are anxious for the 2016-17 season ahead. The depth of the middleweight classes on this season’s Wyoming wrestling team have ample experience to further guide the Pokes into its second season competing in the Big 12.
“We do have a few guys that are strong and experienced to lead this group,” UW head coach Mark Branch said. “It will be fun to see some guys push others to ultimately work out the lineup. Beginning with 149 and into the heavier weights we have multiple guys that may jump from one class to another. We will see guys compete and work things out the right way on the mat. ”
Redshirt senior Cole Mendenhall joined the lineup about halfway through last season, moving from 141 to 149. He just missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Championships after going 2-2 at the Big 12 Championships. He completed the year with a 17-9 overall record with four falls.
“Cole (Mendenhall) made a big improvement last year and wrestled extremely well at the end of the year,” Branch added. “He is motivated to make some things happen during his senior year. He has developed into a better wrestler since he arrived on campus. He will have to be at his best as the year plays out.”
There are a number of other Cowboys that could step up and compete for the Brown and Gold this season at the 149 weight class. Senior Jake Elliott saw action in a couple duals and open tournaments a year ago. Redshirt sophomore Branson Ashworth had a strong season last year. He brought home titles from the Northern Colorado and Utah Valley Open while his lone appearance in UW’s lineup came at Boise State. Branch believes it’s possible to see Ashworth at the 157 or 165 weight classes as well.
“We have some options at the weight, which is great,” Branch mentioned. “It’s a good problem to have with different guys that can be in more than one spot. Another guy I like is Ben Hornickle. Ben goes and competes tremendously hard with Bryce (Meredith) at 141. He prepares himself to compete day in and day out, so he may make an appearance at 149. Ben is the type of wrestler that could push everybody and really make his case to get in that lineup.”
Hornickle finished his true freshman season with a 23-7 record with 11 pins. He had a third-place finish in three of the four open tournaments he competed in.
Taking a gander at the 157 weight class, the Pokes return quite a few wrestlers with lineup experience.
“I see Archie Colgan, who has been our starter for the last two years at 157 for us,” Branch said. “He has been on the bubble for NCAAs, but the bubble isn’t what we want. He has an amazing level of talent and works tremendously hard. He may be a little stubborn in his ways a little bit but he got mentally tougher which allowed him to make a big improvement last year.”
“We will open that weight up for competition and see how far these guys can push each other,” Branch added. “I’m excited to see Branson (Ashworth). He was cutting an extreme amount of weight while wrestling at 149, I want to see him up stronger and see what he can do. We may see him anywhere from 157 to 165 as well. He is big enough to wrestle any one of those weights. Tanner (Miller) is coming off a severe knee injury. He is working his way back but still has some time before he feels comfortable out there. We have some other guys that are certified but it should be a great competition between all of them.”
Pope saw time in a few duals including Oklahoma, Iowa State and Cal Poly last year. He finished with a 16-12 record while spending time in and out of the lineup. Polson recorded an 18-13 record a season ago at 165 and went 1-2 at the Big 12 Championships.
“Dewey Krueger is another guy that took a redshirt last year,” Branch mentioned. “He is the type of guy that will figure out how to get in the lineup. He is just so talented and if he stays healthy, he will have a great year for us.”
Krueger won the Cowboy Open and UNK Holiday Inn Open, before closing out his rookie campaign by finishing third at the Utah Valley Open.
“As we get up into the heavier weights we do have some question marks,” Branch said. “I think we will see a number of guys that will move around. We very well could see Chaz (Polson) one week and then Kyle Pope or Branson (Ashworth) for another week. This time last year, 165 was a big question mark for us. The competition at this weight makes good candidates to have. We felt comfortable with either Chaz (Polson) or Kyle (Pope) at this weight a year ago. They are only getting better and put a lot of time in during the summer. Lucas Lovvorn is another guy that will see time at this weight, as he has come a long way in a year.”
Lovvorn may see time at a number of different weights, but did wrestle at 165 during his freshman season. He placed second at the UNK Holiday Inn and Utah Valley Open and finished with a 17-8 record.
Wyoming will begin the season with the 39th Annual Cowboy Open on Nov. 5. Also, Meredith will compete at the 51st Annual National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Star Classic at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center that same day.