Bryce Meredith gets his hand raised in Cheyenne’s Storey Gym earlier this season after he defeated defending NCAA champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will face North Dakota State and South Dakota State this weekend. (Photo via Pete Arnold)

Is this Mark Branch’s best Cowboy wrestling team yet? The Cowboys have gotten off to a hot start in this young season and they appear to be destined for big things as they get ready to roll into the Big 12 Conference season.

Bryce Meredith has climbed to #1 in the country at his weight after defeating defending NCAA champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State in the Pokes’ recent dual in Cheyenne in front of Meredith’s hometown. Also in the rankings are Branson Ashworth, Archie Colgan, Montorie Bridges, and Sam Turner. The Pokes are now steadily climbing the national rankings, moving up to 12th in the latest InterMat rankings. They are 11th in the Track Wrestling rankings, 11th in the FloWrestling rankings, and 12th in the WIN rankings.

 

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What the Cowboys have accomplished this season is nothing short of remarkable. Meredith will leave Laramie as one of the most decorated and successful wrestlers in its history. His success is reminiscent of Cowboys of the past such as Reese Andy and Joe LeBlanc. Meredith started his collegiate career at North Carolina State then transferred back to his home state. Since then he has been a thorn in the side of his former teammate, Kevin Jack, who wrestles for NC State. You could say that coming back to Laramie has been a blessing in disguise for Meredith.

Meredith is not alone on this team, however, and Archie Colgan and Branson Ashworth have been stellar at their own respective weights this season. The middle of the Cowboy lineup can be a lot for most teams to handle, just as Oregon State found out just a few nights ago when the Pokes ripped off 29 straight points to come back and beat the Beavers in Corvallis. This could be the best group of middleweights in the country. 

Ashworth has climbed to 14th in the rankings, Montorie Bridges has climbed all the way up to fourth in the rankings. Archie Colgan is now ranked tenth. Sam Turner just cracked the rankings and came in at 19th. I’ve been following Cowboy wrestling for a long time and I don’t recall when there was a time when this many wrestlers were ranked, let alone this high. I’m not sure I even recall a time when I saw the Cowboys ranked this high.

Branch has done an outstanding job of drawing talent to Laramie in his ninth season at the helm. Branch is a natural fit for Laramie, and a natural fit for the Cowboy wrestling program. Branch has an excellent pedigree, coming from the gold standard in wrestling at Oklahoma State. John Smith’s teams are always in contention for the national title. Can he achieve similar success at Wyoming? These types of programs just don’t get built over night, but you can see that Branch’s Cowboys are starting to build some real depth in the underclassmen, which are the building blocks of success. Training at a high altitude certainly helps in preparing the Pokes for competition in other places of the country on game day.

This weekend the Cowboys will get another test as they head across the plains to take on South Dakota State in Brookings. The match-up is already being highly touted as the Cowboys have #1 Bryce Meredith at 141. The Jackrabbits have #1 Seth Gross, a runner-up in last years national championships, at 133. Speculation is that Gross will move up to face Meredith. The two have faced off before with each one winning a match.

The Cowboys future is looking bright in Laramie. Branch is stock-piling former state champions on his roster in hopes of building a dynasty that will be here long after he rides off into the sunset. This appears to be the beginning of a team the state and university can be proud of.

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