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Wyoming dominates Air Force

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- For the second time this season, the University of Wyoming (13-3, 7-2 Big 12) wrestling team won its sixth-consecutive dual after a dominating 37-3 victory at Air Force on Friday night. The win was the 100th for head coach Mark Branch, as he becomes the fourth coach in the history of Wyoming wrestling to win at least 100 duals at the helm of the program.

"My confidence in this team is continuing to grow and it is certainly has been the last few duals," Branch said. "We have guys working every day, so to see Ben (Hornickle) go out there and start off the way he did was not really a surprise, but definitely a great way to get us going. With it being the 100th win as coach, it was exciting for me to be able to celebrate with this team. I'm certainly glad it happened at the end of this season and I know it's pretty special. Now we move on to the next thing, which is Big 12s. We'll have to stay healthy, clean up a few things and make adjustments with a few little details, but that is just a reminder that we need to be ready heading into the tournament."

Wyoming earned its 13th dual victory of the year, which is tied for fourth most in a single season in Cowboy history. Additionally, Wyoming's .813 winning percentage is the sixth-best team-winning percentage in one season.

In his first dual action of the season, sophomore Ben Hornickle put the Brown and Gold on the board almost immediately in the 149 bout. Hornickle impressively pinned Dane Robbins in just over 2:30 to give UW a 6-0 lead. It was Hornickle's fifth pin of the 2017-18 season.

At 157 pounds, senior Archie Colgan was up next against Alex Mossing. It was the second time this season Colgan had faced Mossing, as Colgan earned a 3-2 decision at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. The first period went scoreless but Colgan came alive in the second. Behind a takedown and four point nearfall, he jumped out to a 7-1 advantage to begin the final frame. Colgan made true to his No. 9 ranking and held on for an 8-3 decision for his fifth-straight win.

Junior Branson Ashworth, the No. 13th ranked wrestler at 165 pounds, used a first-period takedown to jump out to a 2-0 lead against Alex Lopouchanski at 165 pounds. Ashworth tacked on another takedown late in the second to begin the final period in charge, 4-0. He would score on one more takedown, an escape and a stalling point for the 9-0 major. It was his 22nd bonus-point victory of the year.

Senior Kyle Pope and Michael Billingsley gave the fans an exciting first period at 174 pounds. Both wrestlers would score a takedown and escape in the opening period. Pope broke the 3-3 tie in the second period with another escape. He would add to his lead in the third with two more takedowns before taking the bout with an 8-5 decision. After the first four matches, Wyoming had a 16-0 lead.

Senior Chaz Polson picked up right where he left off from last weekend. Coming off the biggest win of his season against No. 18 Dylan Gabel of Northern Colorado, Polson made things look easy against Zen Ikehara at 184 pounds on Friday night. After a takedown and four point nearfall, Polson continued to control the entire match. The two began the third period with Polson out in front, 8-0. He cruised to a 13-0 victory to move UW's lead to 20-0 halfway through the dual.

At 197 pounds, Luke Paine followed suit with a 10-1 major over Casey Jumps. The Billings, Mont., native picked up two takedowns in the first period and added another quickly in the second. Paine entered the final period with a 6-1 cushion and continued on the offensive. He would add an escape, takedown and riding time point to secure his third-straight victory. At heavyweight, junior Sam Eagan and Matt Wagner came down to the wire but Wagner held out for the 3-2 decision.

At 125 pounds, sophomore Drake Foster used a first-period takedown for an early lead. He would add another plus an escape to further his lead in the second period. He held on for the 6-3 decision. His win gave UW a 27-3 lead with two bouts remaining. Redshirt freshman Montorie Bridges picked up a victory at 133 pounds after a forfeit from Air Force.

Senior Bryce Meredith, No. 1 at 141 pounds, faced Alex Opal to close out the dual. Meredith and Opal each scored a takedown and an escape in the opening period. The top ranked wrestler used a takedown and four point nearfall to distance himself in the second period. Meredith held a 9-3 lead after two and went on to win with a 13-5 major. After tonight, both Bridges and Meredith will enter the Big 12 Championships with a perfect conference record. Meredith is 16-0, while Bridges has a 15-0 mark.

The Pokes will next make their mark in Tulsa, Okla., for the Big 12 Championships. The event will take place from the BOK Center on March 3-4.

UW Coaches with 100 Wins
Everett Lantz (1936-43, '46-52, '53-65): 141-73-8
Steven Suder (1989-2008): 127-136-2
Joe Dowler (1973-87): 104-64-1
Mark Branch (2008-present): 100-49

Results:
149: Ben Hornickle fall Dane Robbins, 2:32 | UW 6, AF 0
157: Archie Colgan dec. Alex Mossing, 8-3 | UW 9, AF 0
165: Branson Ashworth major Alex Lopouchanski, 9-0 | UW 13, AF 0
174: Kyle Pope dec. Michael Billingsley, 8-5 | UW 16, AF 0
184: Chaz Polson major Zen Ikehara, 13-0 | UW 20, AF 0
197: Luke Paine major Casey Jumps, 10-1 | UW 24, AF 0
285: Matt Wagner dec. Sam Eagan, 3-2 | UW 24, AF 3
125: Drake Foster dec. Drew Romero, 6-3 | UW 27, AF 3
133: Montorie Bridges win via forfeit Air Force | UW 33, AF 3
141: Bryce Meredith major Alex Opal, 13-5 | UW 37, AF 3

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