Aug. 21, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
University of Wyoming Cowboy Wrestling second-year head coach Mark Branch sees no reason why his team should not face the best possible opponents this season as they prepare for the 2010 postseason. In fact, when putting together UW's 2009-10 schedule, Branch took the approach that a high-level of competition was an absolute necessity for his Cowboy squad.
As a result, in the 2009-10 season, UW will host six home dual matches, with three of those match-ups coming against teams who finished last year ranked in the top-25 nationally. Other highlights include Wyoming's annual home tournament, the Cowboy Open, a road trip to Lincoln, Neb. to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers who placed fourth at the 2009 NCAA Championships, as well as four high-caliber national preseason tournaments.
"Our schedule will be considerably tougher this year and that is what we want," states Branch. "There were really two key elements we considered when putting together our schedule. One, we want to wrestle elite competition, so that when championship time comes around we have confidence knowing we are prepared. Two, we wanted to cater to our fans and provide more opportunities to watch Cowboy Wrestling in Laramie.
"We are very excited about our home line-up. We have six quality dual match-ups, which include the most successful wrestling program in history in Oklahoma State, Northern Iowa and several of our other conference rivals."
In their first action of 2009-10, the `Pokes will host the 37th Annual Cowboy Open, presented by UniWyo Federal Credit Union, Nov. 14, all day in War Memorial Fieldhouse. Last season over 20 collegiate teams and 450 individuals competed in the event, with an even larger field expected this year.
Over the next month of the season Wyoming will travel to three tournaments, the Body Bar Classic, Sprawl & Brawl, and the Las Vegas Invitational, before their first dual match of the season, versus Stanford on Dec. 18 in Palo Alto, Calif. The Reno Tournament of Champions will conclude UW's preseason tournament competition on Dec. 20.
The new year will bring the Cowboys home to the UniWyo Sports Complex to host North Carolina State on Jan. 5. The Wolfpack finished last season ranked No. 19 in the country and feature one the most exciting wrestlers in the sport, defending national champion Darrion Caldwell.
A road trip to face Oregon State and a home Western Wrestling Conference dual against Northern Colorado will serve as a precursor to Wyoming's match-up with the NU Cornhuskers on Jan. 17 in Lincoln.
UW will then host a huge home weekend of duals when the Oklahoma State Cowboys visit on Jan. 29, followed by match-ups with WWC foes Utah Valley and Northern Iowa on Jan. 30. OSU is the most successful program in college wrestling history, having won 34 NCAA championships. Additionally, in an effort to highlight the UW Cowboy versus OSU Cowboy dual, the UW Athletics Department will hold the event in the spacious Arena-Auditorium.
UNI was No. 22 after last season and narrowly edged the `Pokes at the 2009 West Regional by one and a half team points for the league crown.
Road WWC duals at South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Air Force, as well as a senior-night home contest with Cal State Fullerton will lead Wyoming into the postseason.
"Our team has a little more experience this year and I believe they are mature enough to accept the challenges awaiting them during this upcoming season," Branch observes. "We should be well prepared when the postseason rolls around."
The Cowboys will have a chance to qualify for the NCAA National Tournament by earning automatic or wild-card bids at the West Regional Tournament and WWC Championship, March 6, 2010 in Brookings, S.D.
This year's NCAA Wrestling Championships will be held March 18-20 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. Wyoming fans are encouraged to purchase tickets for the three-day event through the UW Athletics Ticket Office so that the Cowboy fan contingent can all be seated in the same section. The UW Athletics Ticket Office can be contacted at 800-922-9461.
There is the possibility that additional dual matches could be added to the Cowboy schedule prior to the start of the season. If added, those match-ups will be announced at a later date.
UW returns 11 letterwinners for the 2009-10 season, four NCAA qualifiers including All-American Joe LeBlanc, and boasts a recruiting class that was recognized by numerous national publications for its potential at the collegiate level.
Twelve returning team members saw dual match action last season when the Cowboys grabbed a share of the regular season WWC dual championship with a record of 15-3 overall, 5-0 in the WWC. The 2008-09 UW team also had a runner-up finish at the West Regional/WWC Tournament, four individual champions and automatic NCAA qualifiers, as well as nine of 10 wrestlers placing in the top-three of their weight class. Branch was the league's Coach of the Year and was selected as the Top Rookie Coach in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News.