Sept. 16, 2010
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A variety of wrestling styles and competitive surroundings will face the 2010-11 University of Wyoming Cowboy Wrestling program this coming season, as third-year head coach Mark Branch announced his squad's upcoming schedule on Thursday.
Keeping with the approach that a high-level of competition will best prepare the `Pokes for the 2011 postseason, Branch has slated a good mix of tournaments and duals which will challenge his team.
Wyoming will host four duals in Laramie, one of which will be the Cornhuskers from Nebraska, as well as a neutral site match-up against Oregon State in Casper. UW will also put on their annual home tournament, the Cowboy Open, and is scheduled to dual both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the road. Rounding out their body of work, the Cowboys will participate in the prestigious Virginia Duals, as well as nationally renowned open tournaments in both Omaha and Reno.
"We try to change our schedule up every year so we can expose our athletes to as many competitive environments as possible," stated Branch. "By attending the Virginia Duals this year we will hit some teams from the East, and between our home events and the dual with Oregon State in Casper, our local fans will get to see some top-notch wrestling. Then, wrestling two top-10 teams on the road in February will present the type of atmosphere that we need to prepare for conference and NCAAs."
Using preseason rankings based on returning scorers from the NCAA Tournament, UW is currently slotted No. 26. The Cowboys could potentially face 12 programs that will enter the 2010-11 season in the nation's Top-30. No. 3-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 16 Nebraska, No. 24 Cal Poly and No. 30 Oregon State are all locks on the Wyoming schedule for dual matches. Possible UW opponents at the Virginia Duals include No. 7 Penn State, No. 11 Michigan, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 17 Kent State, No. 19 Lehigh, No. 25 Virginia and No. 29 Edinboro.
The `Pokes open the season by hosting the 38th Annual Cowboy Open, presented by UniWyo Federal Credit Union, Nov. 13, all day in War Memorial Fieldhouse. Shortly thereafter, UW will compete on Nov. 20 at the Omaha Open in Omaha, Neb.
"Hosting the Cowboy Open is always a good way to begin the season and we will be tested early at the always-tough Omaha Open, where we will see great competition from the Big Ten and Big 12," continued Branch.
In a big home dual in the UniWyo Sports Complex, the Cowboys will host the Huskers on Dec. 4. at 8 p.m. The event will be the night cap of a UW Athletics quadruple-header, with men's and women's basketball games, as well as a Cowgirl swimming and diving meet earlier that day.
Two weeks later, Wyoming will host the Oregon State Beavers at a neutral location in Casper, Wyo. The dual will take place at Casper College in Erickson Thunderbird Gymnasium on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. and is presented by BlueCross/BlueShield of Wyoming.
Branch feels that the departure from the norm will ultimately be a plus for his team and Cowboy Wrestling fans.
"We have been looking for an opportunity to host a dual for our fans in other parts of the state and the Oregon State dual in Casper will be the perfect chance to promote our program and bring great wrestling action north," commented Branch.
Back to an annual staple on their schedule, UW will compete in the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 19, prior to their Christmas break.
On Jan. 7-8, Wyoming will take part in the 31st Annual Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va. The event features head-to-head duals with a 16-team bracket at the Hampton Coliseum. UW is guaranteed a minimum of three duals and their first-round opponent will be announced at a later date.
"The Virginia Duals are the foundation of the national dual championship and we are proud to have been invited," said Branch.
From there on out UW will face a variety of dual opponents, both at home and on the road, including all six other Western Wrestling Conference (WWC) programs, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Branch concluded by saying, "Closing out our schedule on the road against OU, OSU and Northern Iowa will definitely prepare our team for the post season."
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 Colorado Springs, Colo.
This year's NCAA Wrestling Championships will be held March 17-19 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. 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 for wrestling ticket information at 1-877-WYO-FAN1 (996-3261) or (307) 766-4850.
UW Wrestling concluded last season by winning its first-ever NCAA West Regional Team Championship, defending its regular-season dual title in the Western Wrestling Conference and earning a No. 25 national ranking in the National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today poll. Wyoming had an overall season record of 12-3, 6-0 in the WWC.
For the 2010-11 season, the `Pokes present an exciting lineup which features two-time All-American Joe LeBlanc, a junior at 184 pounds, as well as juniors Michael Martinez (125/133 pounds) and Shane Onufer (165), each two-time NCAA qualifiers. The Cowboys also bring back six additional starters for this upcoming year.
Mark Branch returns as head coach for his third year at the helm, and he has added depth to the program this year, with 16 newcomers on the squad, as well as four team members who redshirted last season.