March 17, 2014
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
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Wrestling begins Thursday and runs through the finals on Saturday evening in Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. Every session, including every match, will be available on ESPN3.com. The semifinals and finals will be available on ESPN.
Thursday: Session I, 10 a.m. MT on ESPNU/ESPN3.com; session II, 5 p.m. MT on ESPNU/ESPN3.com
Friday: Session III, 9 a.m. MT, ESPNU/ESPN3.com; session IV, 5 p.m. MT, ESPN/ESPN3.com
Saturday: Session V, 9 a.m. MT, ESPNU/ESPN3.com; session VI, 6 p.m. MT, ESPN/ESPN3.com
A talented quartet
Comprised of juniors Tyler Cox, Dakota Friesth and Shane Woods and redshirt freshman Benjamin Stroh, the UW group hopes to make some noise on the national scene. Cox and Woods return to NCAAs for the second-straight season, while Friesth and Stroh make their debut.
Cox, Stroh and Woods are fresh off West Regional titles, while Friesth was the runner up at the event in in his weight class. Three of the Cowboys had 25 or more wins this year, and all four had at least 22 victories.
At the national tournament
Wyoming head coach Mark Branch has had a great run at the national championships in each his previous five seasons. UW has accumulated eight All-America honors since 2009, including two in each of the last three years. Branch has guided UW to two top-25 finishes in the last two championships.
Here's a breakdown of each UW wrestler who received a bid for the championships.
Tyler Cox: Ranked eighth in the nation, Cox showed his prowess at the West Regional, beating fourth-ranked Josh Martinez of Air Force in the title bout. He's 28-5 this season with five pins, four major decisions and three technical falls. He earned the No. 9 seed at 125 pounds and faces Caleb Richardson of Penn in the first round.
Dakota Friesth: The junior had his breakout season in 2013-14, winning 28 matches. He had seven major decisions to lead all starters. He finished third in the Reno Tournament of Champions and was the runner-up at 165 pounds in the West Regional. He'll take on 11th-seeded Turtogtokh Luvsandorj of The Citadel in Round One.
Benjamin Stroh: This season marks six-straight years UW has sent a 184-pounder to nationals. The talented rookie won 27 matches in 2013-14, including two bouts at the West Regional to take the crown at 184. Stroh won the Reno Tournament of Champions and knocked off seven NCAA qualifiers over the season. He draws No. 1 Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland in his first bout at nationals.
Shane Woods: Returning to his home state, Woods hopes for a good showing in front of a friendly crowd. The junior returns to NCAAs for the second-straight season, fresh off his second-consecutive WWC title. Woods went 22-7 during the season and has won his last eight bouts. The move from 184 to 197 appears to be paying off for the stout Oklahoma native. He'll face 11th-seeded Nathan Burak (Iowa) to open up NCAAs.
The NCAA will decide the order of the finals matches at the conclusion of Session V on Saturday morning. It's the second season the NCAA will begin with a different weight class than 125 pounds.
The Cowboys finished 23rd in the team race with 20.5 points, thanks to top-eight finishes from Cox and Alfonso Hernandez. It marked the 17th time that UW had finished in the top 25 in history.
Penn State, the three-time defending team champion, enters the championships as the pick to win it all again. InterMat and WIN Magazine each have the Nittany Lions at No. 1 in their final weekly ratings.