LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A much anticipated return to home action awaits the University of Wyoming wrestling team this weekend in key Western Wrestling Conference duals against South Dakota State and North Dakota State.
The Pokes face off against SDSU at 7 p.m. Friday in the UniWyo Sports Complex. The Cowboys wrap up the weekend welcoming NDSU at noon on Sunday.
A Look at Wyoming
Ranked 18th in the nation for the third-consecutive week, Wyoming maintained its highest ranking since January 2013, when the Cowboys were No. 14. No team is wrestling better than UW right now, as the Cowboys have reeled off six-straight dual wins. UW has outscored its last six opponents 182-28, with three shutouts. Most recently, head coach Mark Branch and the Pokes defeated WWC foe Utah Valley on the road 29-3. Friday's dual will feature Branch's 100th dual as head coach.
Five Cowboys are featured in the latest national rankings. Senior Tyler Cox leads the way ranking 11th at 125 pounds. He is joined by senior Dakota Friesth (18th at 165), senior Andy McCulley (15th at 174), sophomore Benjamin Stroh (19th at 184) and senior Shane Woods, who is 15th at 197.
A Look at South Dakota State
At 8-6 overall and 1-0 WWC, the Jackrabbits have shown improvement every season since head coach Chris Bono took over in 2012-13. SDSU finished second in the WWC in 2013-14, its highest finish ever. Cody Pack is nationally ranks sixth at 157 pounds for the Jacks. Nate Rotert also ranks 18th in the nation at 197 pounds.
A Look at North Dakota State
The Bison sit at 5-3 and 1-0 WWC and hope to finish with the WWC crown for the second time in three seasons. Reigning WWC Coach of the Year Roger Kish leads the Bison in his fourth season as head man. NDSU boasts three ranked competitors - Josh Rodriguez (19th at 125 pounds), Hayden Zillmer (7th at 184 pounds) and Evan Knutson ranking 15th at heavyweight.
He Said It
"It is always exciting to wrestle at home and have that sense of comfort," Branch said. "These are two important conference duals and these teams will come here and be a stiff challenge for us."
"I hope our long winter break from school has helped us train for the rest of the season," Branch said. "The off week allowed us to go a little bit longer and we will see if it has paid off, I like how the schedule has played out."
Last Meeting/Series History
The Pokes are 14-1 all-time against South Dakota State. Last season, the Jackrabbits escaped with a narrow 18-17 win over the Pokes in Gillette, Wyo.
The Cowboys sport a 9-5 record over the Bison in a series that dates back to 1990. Wyoming upset #19 North Dakota State last season in Fargo by a score of 17-16 in the regular-season finale.
The Probable Lineup | Series History
133: Drew Templeman vs. Brance Simms | First Meeting
141: Cole Mendenhall vs. Luke Zilverberg | First Meeting
174: 15/17/17 Andy McCulley vs. David Kocer | First Meeting
197: 17/18/15 Shane Woods vs. NR/NR/ 18 Nate Rotert | First Meeting
133: Drew Templeman vs. Hunter Weber or Kyle Gliva | First Meeting
141: Cole Mendenhall vs. Mitch Bengtson I First Meeting
174: 15/17/17 Andy McCulley vs. Kurtis Julson | First Meeting
197: 17/18/15 Shane Woods vs. Tommy Petersen | First Meeting