Nov. 27, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The efforts of the Wyoming Wrestling coaching staff have paid off as head coach Mark Branch announced Tuesday that three student-athletes had signed a National Letter of Intent to compete for the Cowboys, starting in the fall of 2013.
Zach Beard, Finn Higgins and Kyle Pope each will join the program after they decided to attend UW over several other nationally prominent programs.
"We feel good about where our team is, but we needed some strength and depth in our upper weights," Branch said. "We need some people challenging each other for competition in the wrestling room. We feel great about the three guys we are signing."
Zach Beard, Tuttle, Okla. (Tuttle HS) - 165/174 pounds
Beard is highly decorated, and is a three-time Oklahoma state champion, a two-time Mid-America Nationals champion and a Fila Cadet Nationals/World Team Trials runner up. He was a USAW Asics Folkstyle and Freestyle national champion and won the title at the 2012 USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals.
"Beard is a great pickup for us. He is one of the top recruits in the nation, regardless of weight," Branch said. "He really exemplifies the breakthroughs we're getting in recruiting. He was a highly sought after kid and we stayed persistent. It's been hard to recruit in Oklahoma with the competition we have there so it is rewarding to be able to snag two in one signing period. Zach has succeeded at the highest levels at several national tournaments."
Finn Higgins, Heritage Hall, Okla. (Heritage Hall HS) - 197 pounds
Higgins has placed at the Oklahoma state championships twice. Standing at 6-feet, 3-inches, Higgins has ideal size for a 197-pounder.
"He's a kid with a big frame, and a great kid with great values and great academics," Branch said. "He hadn't proven himself on the national scene, but I feel like he is just hitting his stride and starting to develop. He's a kid who has a huge upside, in my opinion."
Kyle Pope, Bakersfield, Calif. (Bakersfield HS) - 174/184 pounds
Pope finished second in the California state championships in 2011, and finished third at the Reno Tournament of Champions last season. Pope was a two-way starter on the Bakersfield football team that won the league title. His father, Darryl Pope, was a three-time All-America honoree for CSU Bakersfield.
"We got in late on him, so it happened really fast," Branch said. "He was a kid who we knew was going to fit in here and he knows firsthand what it takes to succeed at the Division I level. His father has passed on some outstanding genes, but more importantly, the mindset of what it takes to win. Kyle has competed in one of the toughest states in the nation and against the best opposition so I think he will be seasoned to make an impact for our team."
Branch said he and the UW coaching staff likely will stay on the recruiting trail and sign more student-athletes in the spring.
"We will re-evaluate our needs and be looking for talent to add to this outstanding trio," Branch said.