LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Staying atop the Western Wrestling Conference is the goal this weekend for the University of Wyoming wrestling team, as the Pokes travel to face league foe Utah Valley in a critical dual matchup.
Action begins at 7 p.m. MT Saturday from the UCCU Center on the campus of Utah Valley in Orem, Utah.
A look at Wyoming
Rated 18th in the nation, Wyoming holds its highest ranking since January 2013, when the Cowboys were No. 14. There's likely not a team in the country with more momentum than the Pokes (5-2 overall), who have won five straight since beginning the season 0-2. UW also holds a 1-0 mark in league dual action to lead all WWC teams. Most recently, head coach Mark Branch and the Cowboys knocked off Cal Poly of the Pac-12 on the road in a close 23-15 contest.
Five Cowboys are featured in the latest national ranking. Senior Tyler Cox leads the way, as he sits 10th at 125 pounds. He is joined by senior Dakota Friesth (17th at 165), senior Andy McCulley (16th at 174), sophomore Benjamin Stroh (19th at 184) and senior Shane Woods, who is 16th at 197.
A look at Utah Valley
The Wolverines get back to dual action for the first time since Nov. 22, 2014. Since that competition, UVU has participated in three tournaments. The Wolverines enter Saturday's contest with a 1-3 dual mark and will make their 2014-15 WWC debut. After beginning the season with three road duals and one neutral-site matchup, the Wolverines make their home debut Saturday.
Top performers for the Wolverines in recent weeks include 133-pound Jade Rauser, a two-time NCAA qualifier. Rauser placed second at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. Ross Taylor was sixth at 184 pounds in Reno. Chasen Tolbert is rated 16th at 125 pounds in the national rankings.
He said it
"Conference duals are important from an individual basis because it will have implications on (postseason) conference seeding," Branch said. "You want to win every match. If you do well, you're going to win the dual. It seems like Utah Valley always gives its best effort against us and I expect their best guys to wrestle against us and they will be very competitive.
"We need to be sharp and on our toes. The guys need to understand that we've really tested ourselves this year with the schedule we've wrestled, so there's no reason to be hesitant or timid because we've seen the best teams and individuals out there."
Last meeting/series history
On Feb. 15, 2014, the Pokes upended UVU in Laramie by a 32-6 margin, thanks to eight wins in 10 bouts. UW earned decision wins from Woods (197), Brandon Richardson (149), McCulley (157) and Stroh at 184. The Pokes got bonus points thanks to a pin from sophomore heavyweight Tanner Harms, a forfeit win for Cox (125) and a technical fall from Friesth at 165.
The series between the squads began in 2005 and the Pokes own a 9-1 advantage, with the lone loss coming in 2006. Since then, UW has reeled off eight-straight victories.
The probable lineup | Series history
125 pounds: #13/11/14 Tyler Cox OR Gunnar Woodburn vs. #NR/16/NR Chasen Tolbert (UVU) | Cox leads 1-0, Woodburn trails 0-2
133: Drew Templeman vs. Jade Rauser (UVU) | First meeting
141: Cole Mendenhall vs. Matthew Ontiveros (UVU) | First meeting
149: Branson Ashworth OR Jake Elliott vs. Trevor Willson (UVU) | First meeting
157: Archie Colgan OR Robert Stroh vs. Logan Addis (UVU) | Stroh leads 2-0
165: #NR/NR/18 Dakota Friesth OR Kyle Pope vs. Dalton Harmon (UVU) | First meeting
174: #16/17/17 Andy McCulley vs. Ethan Smith (UVU) | McCulley leads 2-0
184: Jace Jensen OR #19/NR/NR Benjamin Stroh vs. Abel Gomez OR Ross Taylor (UVU) | Jensen leads 2-0 over Gomez
197: #19/16/17 Shane Woods vs. Derek Thomas (UVU) | Woods leads 5-0
285: Tanner Harms OR Leland Pfeifer vs. #NR/20/20 Adam Fager OR Jordan Karst (UVU) | Harms leads 1-0 over Karst , Pfeifer trails 0-2 to Fager