‘Experience is overrated’
LARAMIE -- The Wyoming wrestling team will head to St. Louis, Missouri to compete in the NCAA Championships March 18-20 in the Enterprise Center. A total of seven Cowboys are set to compete in St. Louis with the first round of starting 9 a.m. MT.
Fans can watch the Sessions one three and four on ESPNU. Session 2 and the medal rounds will be on ESPN2 while the semi-finals and finals will be broadcasted on ESPN.
Thursday, March 18
9 a.m. (MT) Session 1A (First Round – ESPNU)
12 p.m. (MT) Session 1B (First Round – ESPNU)
4 p.m. (MT) Session 2A (Second Round – ESPN2)
7 p.m. (MT) Session 2B (Second Round – ESPN2)
Friday, March 19
9 a.m. (MT) Session 3 (Quarterfinals – ESPNU)
1 p.m. (MT) Session 4 (Quarterfinals - ESPNU)
6 p.m. (MT) Session 5 (Semifinals – ESPN)
Saturday, March 20
9 a.m. (MT) Session 6 (Medal Round –ESPN2)
5 p.m. (MT) Session 6 (Finals – ESPN)
What are your overall thoughts on your 7 guys and the competition heading into Thursday?
UW head wrestling coach Mark Branch: “We are always working to qualify all 10 guys, but to have a record-tying seven qualifiers is encouraging and promising. These guys can make some noise at this tournament but they need to believe that and go there for that reason only. We can’t go for the experience. Experience is overrated and we need to go to St. Louis expecting to win big matches and seize the opportunity.”
What's your message for the guys as the get ready to compete?
Branch: “They have winnable matches in the first round and that’s all that matters. Just focus on performing that first match and then we’ll gear up for Round 2. If you can keep it simple to managing one match at a time, you can stay focused and perform to your capabilities."
How have you prepared the guys mentally and physically to compete at NCAA's?
Branch: “We spent a few days pushing a little harder in our training. The guys were sore Yesterday and that’s a great thing. That means we got a little better. Now, it’s time to polish a few things, control our weight, and get ready for Thursday.”
The Competing Cowboys
A program record-tying seven Cowboys will take to the mats in St. Louis and they will be led by Stephen Buchanan (197). Buchanan followed his breakout freshmen season with an impressive second year showing. He enters the tournament as the No. 8 seed after finishing second at the Big 12 Championships and recording three wins over Top-5 opponents on the season.
The trio of Hayden Hastings (174), Tate Samuelson (184) and Brian Andrews (HWT) will look to help pace the Cowboys this weekend as they make their third NCAA tournament appearance. Samuelson checks in as the No. 10 seed at 184 pounds while Hastings and Andrews are the No. 14 and No. 13 seeds in their respective brackets. All three Cowboys earned a runner-up finish at the Big 12 Championships.
In his first season as a Cowboy, Jacob Wright (157) punched his ticket to the NCAA Championships behind a solid season that saw him rack up 15 wins. This is the second time in his career that Wright has qualified for the NCAA Championships, qualifying once while competing for Fresno State. He earned an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing fifth at the Big 12 Championships and is the No. 23 seed in the 157-pound bracket.
The Pokes are rounded out by two first-time NCAA Qualifiers in Chase Zollmann (141) and Cole Moody (165). Moody had a breakout season for the Cowboys, which culminated in a career-best second-place finish at the Big 12 Championships. Moody will have the No. 20 seed in the 165-pound bracket.
Zollmann found a groove late in the season when he finished third at the Cowboy Challenge tournament, winning his placing match by fall. He rode that momentum in the Big 12 championships where he was seeded eighth and picked up multiple upset wins on his way to a fifth-place finish. Zollamnn will have the No. 29 seed at 141 pounds.
The First Round Matchups
141 – No. 29 Zollmann (WYO) vs No. 4 Tariq Wilson (NCST)
157 – No. 23 Wright (WYO) vs No. 10 Justin Thomas (OU)
165 – No. 20 Moody (WYO) vs No. 13 Tanner Skidgel (NAVY)
174 – No. 14 Hastings (WYO) vs No. 19 Michael O’Malley (DREX)
184 – No. 10 Samuelson (WYO) vs No. 23 Charles Small (HOF)
197 – No. 8 Buchanan (WYO) vs No. 25 J.J. Dixon (ORST)
HWT – No. 13 Andrews (WYO) vs No. 20 Quinn Miller (UVA)
Wyoming at the NCAA Championships
• Wyoming has crowned 35 All-Americans at the NCAA Championships since 1950. That total includes seven NCAA finalists.
• If the Cowboys are to bring home an individual championship this weekend, it would mark the program's second, and first since Dick Ballinger in 1960.
• Under head coach Mark Branch, 12 Cowboys have returned from the NCAA Championships as All-Americans.
• Branch's teams have recorded three top-20 finishes at the tournament, and five top-25 finishes.
• In Branch's previous 10 seasons, Wyoming has recorded multiple All-Americans in four years, one in four years, and none in just three years.
* University of Wyoming press release