LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The rugged early-season slate for the University of Wyoming wrestling program continues this weekend, as the Cowboys host the second-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday.
The nonconference tilt begins at 5:30 p.m. MT in the UniWyo Sports Complex. Wyoming (0-1 overall) hopes to rebound from a 22-13 loss in the season opener to Nebraska on Nov. 7, while Minnesota (0-0) opens its dual schedule Saturday. The Gophers will battle Air Force at 10 a.m. in Colorado Springs, Colo., prior to heading north to Laramie.
"It's an amazing opportunity for our program to host a team like Minnesota," Wyoming head coach Mark Branch said. "It's great for wrestling fans around the state to see two good teams compete and to see a program of Minnesota's caliber."
A look at Wyoming
Four individuals took home victories in the Nebraska dual. Senior Tyler Cox was victorious in a 7-4 decision at 125 pounds, sophomore Jake Elliott earned a 5-3 win at 149, sophomore Benjamin Stroh won 15-6 at 184 and senior Shane Woods grinded out a 3-2 decision at 197.
Cox is 3-0 for the season, with a Cowboy Open title to his credit. UW claimed runner-up finishes at the Open from sophomore Drew Templeman at 133, sophomore Cole Mendenhall at 141, Elliott at 149, redshirt freshman Archie Colgan at 157 and junior Tanner Harms at heavyweight. Seniors Andy McCulley (174) and Woods were third, along with Stroh.
Cox is rated eighth in the latest national polls. Three other Cowboys are nationally ranked: senior Dakota Friesth (16th at 165), Stroh (15th) and Woods, who is 13th.
A look at Minnesota
The Gophers bring an established pedigree into the matchup, finishing second at the NCAA Championships a season ago with seven All-America honorees and two national finalists. UM also won the EAS/NWCA National Duals Championship, finishing 14-1 in 2013-14. In their most recent action, seven Gophers won titles at the NDSU Bison Open last weekend.
Ranked wrestlers for UM include: Chris Dardanes (second at 133), Nick Dardanes (third at 141), Jake Short (18th at 149), Dylan Ness (first at 157), Logan Storley (first at 174), Brett Pfarr (14th at 184) and Michael Kroells, who is 19th at 285.
He said it
"It's natural to respect an opponent like this," Branch said. "They've earned that respect with what they've accomplished in that program. Our key is to not give them too much respect and to come out and believe we belong out there on the mat with these individuals.
"That's been a constant struggle, for our guys to see themselves on that (elite) level. There's a fine line between giving due respect and giving too much respect. We need to be ready to battle and believe we can compete."
Last time/series history
The Cowboy and Gophers have met six times in history, with UM leading the series 5-1. Last year, the Gophers beat the Pokes 41-5 in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is the seventh top-five opponent the Cowboys have faced in seven seasons under Branch. UW last hosted the No. 2 team in 2012 when Oklahoma State came to Laramie.
The probable matchups
125 pounds: #8/9/10 Tyler Cox vs. Sam Brancale (UM)
133: Drew Templeman vs. #2/3/2 Chris Dardanes (UM)
141: Cole Mendenhall vs. #3/3/3 Nick Dardanes (UM)
149: Jake Elliott vs. #NR/18/NR Jake Short (UM)
157: Archie Colgan vs. #1/1/1 Dylan Ness (UM)
165: #18/16/18 Dakota Friesth vs. Nick Wanzek (UM)
174: Andy McCulley vs. #1/1/1 Logan Storley (UM)
184: #15/19/18 Benjamin Stroh vs. #14/14/16 Brett Pfarr (UM)
197: #16/13/15 Shane Woods vs. Chris Pfarr (UM)
285: Tanner Harms OR Leland Pfeifer vs. #NR/NR/19 Michael Kroells (UM)
Rankings based on most recent InterMat/Amateur Wrestling News/FloWrestling polls.