Cowboy wrestler Bryce Meredith did something that few Cowboys before him have done. He made an appearance in the finals of the NCAA tournament this weekend at New York City’s historic Madison Square Garden.
Meredith was a 14 seed in the tournament, meaning he was going to have to earn All-American the hard way, through the toughest part of the bracket. Meredith’s first match was against Robbie Mathers of Arizona State. Meredith won a 16-3 decision against the Pac12 wrestler. In the second round Meredith beat his former North Carolina State teammate Kevin Jack in a close 5-4 decision.
After this is when Bryce Meredith’s path got slightly more difficult. In the quarterfinals he went on to face sixth seeded Micah Jordan of Ohio State. Meredith put him away with a 5-2 decision to move onto the championship semifinals on Friday night. His opponent was second seeded Joey McKenna of Stanford. Meredith, in a close match at the end, hit a take down on McKenna and eeked out a late victory to put him in the finals.
Bryce Meredith’s improbable run to Saturday night’s final made him the first Cowboy to make a finals appearance since Reese Andy in 1996, where he was a runner-up. Meredith was the eighth Cowboy to make an appearance in the finals. No Cowboy had won a championship since Cody’s Dick Ballinger did so in the 1960.
Meredith was set to face Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil in the final. The two had faced off once earlier in the season, with Heil earning a 5-4 decision in Laramie.
In the final the two spent the first period feeling each other out, Heil getting a takedown late in the period to lead 2-0 going into the second. After two escapes by Meredith and one by Heil the match was 3-2 late in the third period. Meredith made several attempts late in the match for a take down and eventually Heil warned for stalling late in the match. The match finished 3-2 after a flurry of shots from Meredith.
Coach Mark Branch said after the match, “To go out there and compete at the highest level is special and he showed what he is capable of. I told him he can beat anyone in the country and it’s exciting to see him use this experience.” Meredith finished the season with a 29-5 record. He became the 32nd All-American in Cowboy history. He is the ninth All-American under Mark Branch. He’s the eighth native Wyoming wrestler to earn All-American, and third to earn a spot in the finals.
The Cowboys finished with 24.5, good enough for 18th place. The 18th place finish was the highest a Mark Branch coached team has finished. Wyoming only took three wrestlers to the NCAA tournament. This was the third top 25 finish for Branch’s Cowboys. It was the highest the Cowboys have finished since a 15th place finish in 1996.
The other two Cowboys competing, Drew Templeman and Tanner Harms were also point scorers for the Cowboys. Templeman finished his tournament with a 1-2 record. He was defeated 3-2 in his first match by MAC champion Barlow McGhee. He was able to survive in wrestlebacks by defeating Shakur Laney from Ohio. Templeman was eliminated by Darian Cruz of Lehigh in a 13-5 decision.
Tanner Harms fell one victory short of joining Bryce Meredith as an All-American. Harms scored a 12-2 decision of Garrett Ryan of Columbia. He was beaten by tech fall by eventual champion Kyle Snyder of Ohio State. Harms bounced back in the consolation round and defeated Ray O’Donnell of Princeton and Mike Hughes of Hofstra. Harms would end his tournament via major decision to Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State. Harms’ two falls in the consolation rounds helped the Cowboys pick up some major team points.
Penn State won the team title, which was decided before the finals even started. They were followed by Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Iowa. The Cowboys finished fourth best of the Big 12 teams, behind Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma.