Aug 26, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Matchups against two of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling programs highlight the 2013-14 home schedule for the University of Wyoming wrestling team, announced Monday by head wrestling coach Mark Branch.
Fans will have the opportunity to watch the Cowboys take on Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in Laramie this season for dual matchups, in addition to Western Wrestling Conference opponents Northern Colorado and Utah Valley. Oklahoma State was second in the nation at last season's NCAA Championships, while OU was 12th. OSU boasted seven All-America honorees, while the Sooners had two.
"We want to get tougher every year," said Branch, who will enter his sixth season at the helm of the Cowboys. "Our schedule follows along with that. We're definitely going to be challenged by this schedule."
Coming off a season in which they finished 9-6 and 4-1 in WWC action, the Cowboys open the home slate with the 36th Cowboy Open tournament in the War Memorial Fieldhouse on Nov. 2, followed by the OSU showdown on Dec. 14. The Sooners come to town Jan. 9, followed by Cal Poly on Jan. 24. There are two home matches in February, as UW faces Northern Colorado on Feb. 7 and Utah Valley on Feb. 15. A neutral-site conference contest between the Pokes and South Dakota State is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Gillette, Wyo.
"We are excited to have the Oklahoma schools back here," Branch said. "Those are the premier home events."
The first road dual of the season pits the Pokes against the Broncos of Boise State on Nov. 15. On Nov. 24, the Pokes travel to wrestle Minnesota for the first time since 1996, and compete on the Gopher home mats for the first time since 1993. UW and Minnesota agreed to a home-and-home arrangement, in which UW will go to Minneapolis this season and the Gophers will come to Laramie, possibly as soon as 2014.
"That's one of the top teams in the country and going into their place and having to wrestle a program with the tradition that they have is a huge challenge, especially early in the season," Branch said of Minnesota. "Those two early duals, where we hit two extremely good teams in Boise State and Minnesota on the road, are going to be a challenge for us as a coaching staff to get our kids prepared."
In addition, UW faces stiff tests by battling traditional national powers like Oregon State and Nebraska and a rapidly improving North Dakota State squad, all on the road.
"We have a young team next year, and for them to take those things on, we're going to have to grow up really fast," Branch said. "Our non-conference schedule is brutal.
"But you have to look at it like we're getting our kids prepared for the realities of what postseason will be like. Our kids will be seasoned by the end of the year."
The Pokes wrap up the conference road slate with a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., to battle Air Force on Feb. 11 and a journey to Fargo, N.D., to take on NDSU on Feb. 21. The postseason begins March 8 when UW aims for its fifth-straight conference tournament title at the WWC Championships/NCAA West Regional, hosted by Utah Valley in Orem, Utah. Two weeks later, Wyoming travels to Oklahoma City, Okla., for the NCAA Championships on March 20-22. The Cowboys finished 23rd in the team race in 2013.
The Pokes return four of their seven NCAA qualifiers from last season, including All-America finisher Tyler Cox, who was eighth at 125 pounds.