LARAMIE — Bryce Meredith isn’t an outlier anymore. While the Wyoming senior wrestler’s consensus No. 1 ranking at 141 pounds is new and impressive, his reputation is already well established within the wrestling community, thanks to his two all-American seasons and his second-place finish at the 2016 NCAA Championships. But he’s not the only Cowboy with numbers next to his name.
As a team, Wyoming is now ranked No. 11 by Flowrestling and Trackwrestling, No. 19 in the Open Mat’s tournament rankings and No. 20 by InterMat’s tournament rankings. Freshman Montorie Bridges is ranked as high as No. 4 at 133 pounds (Trackwrestling), senior Archie Colgan is ranked as high as No. 10 at 157 pounds (InterMat), Branson Ashworth is ranked No. 14 in all the polls at 165 pounds, and freshman Sam Turner is No. 19 per Flowrestling at 149 pounds.
“It’s exciting,” Turner said. “I think that we all kind of have known for a long time how good we are, and just seeing everything come together is really exciting. Seeing us get that recognition is a good thing for sure.”
Wyoming is coming off a win at Oregon State, where it trailed 12-0 before notching 29 consecutive points. The Cowboys wrestle Thursday at No. 13 South Dakota State and Saturday at North Dakota State, which begins at 6 p.m.
“Managing the pressure has taken on a new meaning in the last couples weeks,” head coach Mark Branch said. “We weren’t ranked hardly in any polls a few weeks ago and then we jump up to 11 in some. I think we need to earn that. So you just continue to reinforce that these duals are practice and you go out and you learn from them. You can’t carry that baggage with you right now. We haven’t earned it. I mean, a ranking is a ranking. At the beginning of the year we want to be insulted because we’re not ranked, and then all of a sudden we’re like, ‘Wait a minute, why are you ranking us that high?’
“So you just have fun with it. This team’s really bonded, I think, over the last month, so it’s made the whole environment more enjoyable. I think I’m more laid back, I’m having fun with them and their personalities, and those things help keep things light.”
The emergence of the two freshmen has been a bright spot of late for the Cowboys.
“Yeah, we knew they could be tough,” Branch said. “You don’t know if that’s going to kick in right away or at all. I like what I’ve seen. Montorie’s had some huge matches, but that wasn’t surprising, because of his habits. He got close to a 4.0 this semester again. I think his overall GPA’s in the high 3s, and he does everything right. He comes in and he scraps with Bryce, and he’s definitely one of the hardest workers in the room. So you expect those things, actually. You know how hard this sport is at this level, so you don’t know if he’s actually going to break through and get those big wins that he got here the last couple weeks. But at the same time, you feel comfortable with that.”
Bridges, who is on a 13-match winning streak, was recently named the Big 12 wrestler of the week after picking up two wins over ranked opponents at the UNC Duals. Turner has won four of his last six matches with the only losses coming to top-20 opponents.
“Something that’s been working well for me has just been going into every practice and finding a reason to be motivated and finding a reason to be there and getting something out of every practice, for sure,” Turner said. “And I guess that’s partially what I need to work on, too, is just continuing to do that, because some days you come in and you’re not motivated. You’re not excited to be at practice. But that’s definitely been something that’s made a difference for me this year is finding that motivation for every practice and being excited to be there.”
All told, it’s a lot more fun for Meredith to have some company.
“I know last year our dual team has been real sketchy and weak at times, and that really sucks the life out of you,” the Cheyenne native said. “When you go out and get a pin and you come back and get yelled at by Coach, it kind of sucks having that. So it’s nice to have the team, and these guys are just tough people, and it’s finally starting to show this year, I think. I’m just real excited.”