Oct. 31, 2008
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A new era of University of Wyoming Cowboy Wrestling will dawn this weekend under the leadership of first-year head coach Mark Branch.
In their first action of 2008-09, the `Pokes will have 14 team members wrestling at the Daniel Cormier Open in Colby, Kan., on Saturday, Nov. 1. Six will compete in Wyoming team singlets, while the other eight will wrestle unattached.
Competition begins at 8 a.m. MT at Colby Community College and continues all day.
Branch, hired on July 14, 2008, following the resignation of 19-year veteran Steven Suder, inherits a team that is certainly not void of talent with nine returning letterwinners, one NCAA qualifier, several key contributors from last season and a recruiting class that has garnered national attention for its skill level. Most notably were national rankings from W.I.N. Magazine and IntermatWrestle.com, both placing the UW recruiting class #11 in the country.
That said, this year's UW squad will have a strikingly different look than Cowboy teams of the past, based simply on a new coaching philosophy and the infusion of 20 freshmen or redshirt freshmen into the program.
There are several true freshmen who have the potential to break into the starting lineup with their talent, but only if they are physically and mentally ready. The Wyoming coaches would like to redshirt many of the freshmen, but after evaluating some early season tournament action they will wrestle the best guy at each weight regardless of year.
"Overall we have a very young team and not many upperclassmen," states Branch. "That is not always a bad thing. They are hungry, excited and everything is a new experience. The coaching change has been a little easier because of their youth. It is good to have big changes when people are young and overall there is a great attitude and work ethic."
Other than four returning Cowboys who will likely begin the year in the starting lineup, the remainder of the spots are up for grabs. Senior Eric Coxbill (157/165), sophomore Cole Dallaserra (141/149), redshirt freshman Michael Martinez (125) and junior Cory VomBaur (133/141) head into the season with a leg up in their respective weight classes, but all other spots could be claimed by any number of guys.
"Our lineup is crazy to me right now because there are so many guys that could go at two different weights," continued Branch. "There is a lot of variation and multiple options in the middle weight classes. We have several guys that certified low and want to wrestle up, so we are trying to work through that. I suspect there will be a lot of changes to our line-up between the start of season and the end of the year."
One certainty is that the Cowboys' schedule should work to their favor in 2008-09. Wyoming has three early events that might see UW teammates match up against each other, which could help determine the depth chart for the rest of the season. The Cormier Open, the Northwest Wyoming tournament (Nov. 8) and the Cowboy Open (Nov. 15) will all fall into the above category and should be good indicators for the coaching staff. UW will host a dual against Stanford on Nov. 14. The other three fall events (Omaha, Las Vegas, Reno) will be against high-caliber competition and will be a good challenge.
By second semester UW should have a solid team put together that Branch hopes to stick with throughout the dual season. The Cowboys will face teams such as Duke, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and five of the six other Western Wrestling Conference schools, save Northern Iowa who has chosen not to dual Wyoming this season. The `Pokes could have a chance to meet UNI at the prestigious National Duals in early January.
"We have a good mix of duals with teams at different levels," Branch observes. "There are some teams that should challenge us and some we should match-up well against. That mix should be a good indicator of how prepared we are for the end of the year. We also have a great opportunity to compete in the National Duals where we will see how well we match up with the top teams in the country."
The Cowboys will have a chance to qualify for the NCAA National Tournament by earning automatic or wild-card bids at the Western Wrestling Conference Championship, March 7, 2009 in Greeley, Colo.