GREELEY, Colo. -
The Wyoming Cowboy wrestling team wrapped up its regular-season in convincing fashion on Sunday with a 26-9 road win at Northern Colorado to conclude the season with an 11-4 dual record and a 4-1 record in the Western Wrestling Conference.
UW entered the match ranked No. 17 in this week's USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association poll, and they looked every bit a Top 20 team on Sunday. They were facing their oldest wrestling rival in UNC. The Wyoming-Northern Colorado series dates back 83 years. Northern Colorado entered the match having won its last four consecutive duals this season.
The match started at 157 pounds with Wyoming's Archie Colgan recording a 7-1 decision over Northern Colorado's Beau Roberts to give the Cowboys a 3-0 lead in the match.
Next up at 165 pounds was the only matchup of ranked opponents on the day as Wyoming's No. 18 ranked Dakota Friesth faced off against UNC's No. 19 ranked Mitchell Polkowske. The match was all it was expected to be as the two battled in a close match throughout. Friesth recorded a first period takedown only to see Polkowske escape to end the period with Friesth leading 2-1. Friesth was the only one to score in the second period recording an escape to make the score 3-1 heading into the final period. Polkowske escaped to begin the third period to pull to within one point at 3-2, but Friesth took down Polkowske for the second time in the match to build his lead back to 5-2. A late reversal by Polkowske made the score 5-4 with 34 seconds remaining, but Friesth held on to win by a final of 5-4. It was Friesth's 20th win of the season, improving his record to 20-10.
Senior Andy McCulley, ranked No. 14 in the nation, took the mat at 174 pounds for Wyoming and recorded the only fall of the day, pinning UNC's Josh Van Tine at the 6:59 mark in the match to give the Pokes a 12-0 team lead. It was McCulley's 101st career win to move him into a tie for 15th on the UW career wins mark. He is now tied with Lonnie Currier, who recorded 101 career wins at Wyoming from 1980-85. McCulley's pin was the 34th of his career, and moved him into a tie for No. 8 all-time at UW. He is tied with Shane Onufer (34 pins from 2008-12) and Paul Reed (34 pins from 1974-77).
"Andy (McCulley) came out after having a great week of practice," said Branch. "We had adjusted our training a little bit this last week, and I was afraid that we might have a little fatigue from those adjustments, but I really thought we came out and wrestled pretty well.
"There are a couple things we've focused on in the last two weeks, and I think we've had some positive results in our live matches from that. I was happy to see us be a little bit more stingy on top and be a little more aggressive in all areas."
At 184 pounds, Wyoming head coach Mark Branch inserted redshirt freshman Luke Paine from Billings, Mont., into the lineup. Paine, who had a 6-3 overall record and an 0-1 dual record this season entering Sunday's match, responded by recording a 10-2 major decision of Keith Johnson of Northern Colorado. Paine's win built the Cowboy lead to 16-0.
"I threw Luke Paine in there, and I think he was surprised that I actually put him in," said Branch. "But he came out and kept his composure and wrestled at a hard pace and wrestled good in all positions.
"We got a couple young guys in our lineup today. Not only was it good to get some of our veterans some rest, but it was good to see a couple guys who might be in our lineup next year. We needed to give them that opportunity and that experience and see where they are at right now."
Senior Shane Woods rounded out the first half of Sunday's dual by improving his dual record this season to a perfect 15-0 at 197 pounds, registering a 3-0 decision and providing Wyoming a 19-0 lead going into intermission. Woods began this week ranked No. 14 in the nation.
The first match after intermission was at 285 pounds where senior Leland Pfeifer carried a 5-4 lead into the final period but was unable to hold on and lost 8-5 to UNC's Brian Macchione. That gave the Bears their first win of the dual, and their first team points of the day as the team score was 19-3.
UNC recorded its second consecutive victory when at 125 pounds No. 20 ranked Trey Andrews of UNC was able to come from behind in the third period after Wyoming sophomore Gunnar Woodburn took a 4-2 lead with only 23 seconds remaining in the match. Andrews was able to gain a reversal with 13 seconds left to tie the match at 4-4 and force an extra period. Andrews then won on a takedown to win 6-4 by sudden victory. That cut the Cowboys' lead to 19-6.
"Gunnar (Woodburn) is a kid who is going to see mat time for us next year and may be a starter for us," said Branch. "He really wrestled well and was in a great position to win the match, but made a couple mistakes to put it into overtime. Then in overtime, he didn't finish. He set himself up really well to win, but he's got to get better in those situations. There is such a mental part of this game that it takes some experience to get to the point of finishing off a close match."
Another Wyoming sophomore, Drew Templeman, got the Pokes back in the win column at 133 pounds. Templeman led wire-to-wire over Michael Espinoza. Templeman built an 8-1 lead in the third period before recording a 12-3 major decision and building the Wyoming lead to 23-6.
The 141-pound match was one of the closest of the day, as UNC's Ben Polkowske was able to record an escape in the second period for the only points of the match to defeat Wyoming's Cole Mendenhall, 1-0.
Wyoming's Austin Breckenridge concluded the dual with a big third period in his match with the Bears' Nick Adams at 149 pounds. Leading by a single point, 2-1, heading into the third period, Breckenridge recorded an escape, two takedowns and a riding-time point while allowing Adams only one escape point to win an 8-2 decision.
The final score -- Wyoming 26 and Northern Colorado 9.
The Cowboys will now begin preparations for March 7 when they will travel to Fargo, N.D., for the Western Wrestling Conference Championships/NCAA West Regional.
"We will continue what we started last week and take our conditioning to another level," said Branch. "We have room to improve, and we keep working to sharpen some of the areas we've been focusing on.
"This is the time of year to start thinking about what you're capable of and start preparing for what it will take to punch your ticket to the NCAAs. It starts in the mind, and we can start working on that on this drive home today. The regular season is over. This is what we've trained for, and there are a whole lot of reasons to be excited right now."
Wyoming vs. Northern Colorado Match Results, Feb. 22, 2015 (FINAL SCORE: WYO 26, UNC 9)
157: Archie Colgan (Wyoming) Dec. Beau Roberts (UNC), 7-1 / WYO 3, UNC 0
165: #18 Dakota Friesth (Wyoming) Dec. No. 19 Mitchell Polkowske (UNC), 5-4 / WYO 6, UNC 0
174: #14 Andy McCulley (Wyoming) Fall (6:59) over Josh VanTine (UNC), Fall (6:59) / WYO 12, UNC 0
184: Luke Paine (Wyoming) Major Dec. Keith Johnson (UNC), 10-2 / WYO 16, UNC 0
197: #14 Shane Woods (Wyoming) Dec. Trent Noon (UNC), 3-0 / WYO 19, UNC 0
285: Brian Macchione (UNC) Dec. Leland Pfeifer (Wyoming), 8-5 / WYO 19, UNC 3
125: #20 Trey Andrews (UNC) Dec. Gunnar Woodburn (Wyoming), 6-4 in Sudden Victory / WYO 19, UNC 6
133: Drew Templeman (Wyoming) Major Dec. Michael Espinoza (UNC), 12-3 / WYO 23, UNC 6
141: Ben Polkowske (UNC) Dec. Cole Mendenhall (Wyoming), 1-0 / WYO 23, UNC 9
149: Austin Breckenridge (Wyoming) Dec. Nick Adams (UNC), 8-2 / WYO 26, UNC 9 FINAL SCORE