Dec. 29, 2011
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The Wyoming wrestling program has a golden opportunity to climb the national ladder this week, as the Cowboys face two top-10 teams on their home mat. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will visit Laramie for duals that could set the tone for 2012.
Wyoming (0-1 overall) will wrestle in its first two home duals of the season. The Pokes face Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. Sunday and will battle the Oklahoma Sooners at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Both duals will be in the Arena-Auditorium.
Breaking it down
Oklahoma State currently is ranked No. 2 in the nation by InterMat, while Oklahoma is tied for ninth in the nation.
OSU, which finished fourth at the NCAA Championships last season, is 3-0 this year and will face Boise State on Friday in Idaho.
Oklahoma (3-1 overall) will go to the Midlands Championships in Chicago on Thursday and Friday. The Sooners were 16th in the team standings at last year's national championships.
No. 20 Wyoming is 0-1 on the year, losing to Nebraska in its only dual of the season so far.
Climbing the mountain
The schedule does Wyoming no favors in the early going, but it was set up with a purpose, Wyoming coach Mark Branch said.
"I think it's proven to be helpful, the fact that we've toughened our schedule and wrestled teams like that has helped us in the end," he said. "Even individually, we've turned some of those matches around when it counts at the NCAA Tournament. Those are important duals for the experience our kids get. We want to compete well and win but that's not the deciding factor. That's a pretty stiff challenge to win those duals, but our kids will get some experience you can't put a value on.
"This is part of the process, to help them get prepared for the NCAA tournament, to be in a big-time environment with a lot of pressure on their shoulders and competition that's among the top of the country. I think we can compete in both duals, and if we wrestle outstanding, we'll put ourselves in position to be in a tight battle. But we have to wrestle our best to make that happen. We can wrestle well and come up a little short and the team score can get lopsided. That's what we've seen in the past. We've competed hard but we lose those close matches and it makes for a long night. If we turn those in our favor, we'll be in the battle. That's what we're looking to do."
What happened last year
Wyoming took on these two teams in early February 2011, and lost both duals to the Oklahoma schools, falling 22-10 to the Sooners and 34-3 to the Cowboys of OSU. Senior Joe LeBlanc was the only Wyoming wrestler to win both his matches, beating Chris Perry (OSU) and Oklahoma's Erich Schmidtke.
Wyoming trails the all-time series with both schools and aims for its first win ever against either program. UW owns a 0-14-2 record versus Oklahoma and has never beaten OSU, trailing 0-13-1 in that series.