LARAMIE, Wyo. (Nov. 2, 2016) -- This is the third and final release of a three-part series that will preview the 2016-17 Cowboy wrestling team. This release looks at the 125, 133 and 141-pound weight classes.
It is no secret that the lower weight classes on the Wyoming Cowboy wrestling team should help the Pokes get off to a quick start when matches begin in traditional order at the 125-pound weight class.
“With our depth and strength of our lower weights, I am excited for this group,” UW head coach Mark Branch said. “I like where we are at. We have very competitive guys that will only get better as they wrestle each other throughout the year. There are a number of guys that go out and compete to improve every day.”
Redshirt senior Drew Templeman and junior Bryce Meredith are two NCAA qualifiers who have each earned multiple preseason accolades as the season begins. The two of them will look to be a solid punch for the Cowboys at that point in the match.
“Of the guys at the 125 weight class, Drew (Templeman) clearly has the most experience,” Branch added. “I believe we have flexibility with Drew, who is certified at 125 but has had some thoughts on moving up to 133. It’s been a couple years for him at 133. He does well with weight management but it’s a lot of work for him. If he feels he is competing at a high level at that weight, I could see him staying there through the year. If we throw transfer Ronnie Stevens into the mix with senior Gunnar Woodburn and sophomore Drake Foster who are all certified at 125 and have varsity experience, it’s not a bad problem to have. Those four guys will probably play into the 125 and 133 weights.”
Templeman is currently No. 10 at 125 pounds in the Amateur Wrestling News rankings and No. 11 in the Open Met Individual Division I rankings. Additionally, Templeman is ranked No. 12 at 125 pounds in the Intermat Individual preseason poll and No. 13 in the ASICS/FloWrestling rankings. Lastly, Templeman is No. 17 in the 125 pound rankings for WIN Magazine. He had a 19-10 record as a junior last year, and finished fourth at the Big 12 Championship to earn his first berth for the NCAA Championships.
Stevens transferred from Oregon State during the offseason. He went 18-7 on the year with four pins and three major decisions for the Beavers. Before making his way into the lineup at 133, Foster won the Cowboy Open and the UNK Holiday Inn Open. He wrestled 133 for UW at the Big 12 Championships and closed out his true freshman season with a 22-5 record. Woodburn ended his junior campaign with a 4-8 record. He saw action against Air Force and Nebraska a year ago and also competed in the UNC Open, the Cowboy Open and the Utah Valley Open for the Pokes.
“It’s very early in the year so things haven’t really settled yet but we certainly have a lot of options at our lower weights,” Branch mentioned. “As we continue with practice and now with the first couple of open tournaments, we will stand back and let guys compete, which usually is the best way to work things out. There is great competition throughout the NCAA in the 125 and 133 weights. We will see it beginning at the Cowboy Open.”
When looking at the 141 weight class, junior Bryce Meredith returns after not only an impressive year but one of the most exciting seasons for any wrestler to wear the Brown and Gold. Meredith became the 32nd All-American selection in Cowboy history after a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships. Never one to shy from the spotlight, Meredith will begin his season at the 51st National Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) All-Star Classic. He will take on two-time All-American Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers. Meredith will be the seventh participant in Wyoming history. UW last appeared in the All-Star Classic in November of 2011 with Shane Onufer (165) and Joe LeBlanc (184) both competing.
“Bryce (Meredith) was able to get a good taste of everything last year,” Branch said. “Getting so close to winning a national championship is pretty motivating. He was selected to be at the All-Star Classic which has such a high level of competition. With the competition at his weight he knows he has to get ready. His work ethic is tremendous. We want Bryce to stay hungry and it’s important for him to stay focused. He has done well with all the attention and understands it’s a tough journey. He is a leader and after the year he had last year, all of us coaches are excited to see what he can bring to this team this year.”
Meredith was the first NCAA finalist for UW since Reese Andy in 1996. He fell the top-seeded Dean Heil of Oklahoma State by decision, 3-2. He was named the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week after defeating Anthony Abidin of Nebraska on Nov. 21. He stayed in the individual rankings after his first-career weekly honor and finished his sophomore season with a 29-5 record.
Like Templeman, Meredith is also hauling in a number individual preseason rankings. Amateur Wrestling News, the Open Mat and the Intermat preseason rankings all have Meredith as the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the 141 weight class. Additionally, Meredith checks in at third in the 2016-17 ASICS/FloWrestling Division I Rankings. Furthermore, Meredith holds the second-ranked spot for 141 pounds in the WIN Magazine rankings, as he is behind Oklahoma State’s Heil.
“No doubt we have options with our depth at these weight classes,” Branch added. “We have guys that don’t have a backup mindset and regardless of what they did last year or the year before, they come to practice hungry and focused.”
As a team, Wyoming is ranked No. 21 in the WIN Magazine 2016-17 Preseason Tournament Power Index. UW earned a TPI ranking of 17. The TPI is based on the schools' wrestlers who are rated in WIN's individual rankings, predicting possible All-American candidates in the 2017 NCAA Championships. The Pokes were also ranked 22nd in the Intermat Preseason Dual-Meet Poll. Announced this morning, Wyoming received one vote in the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll.
Wyoming will begin the season with the 39th Annual Cowboy Open on Saturday. 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.