GREELEY, Colo. -- The 12th-ranked Wyoming wrestling team finished off the 2018-19 dual season on Sunday afternoon, handling Big 12 foe Northern Colorado, 26-19, at Bank of Colorado Arena.
With the win, the Cowboys (16-4, 6-2 Big 12) have eclipsed the most dual wins in a season in the Mark Branch era with 16. The Pokes' 16 dual wins this season are also the most since winning a school-record 17 during the 1966-67 season. Branch is now 116-53 in dual meets during his career at Wyoming.
"I think that's a great sign of the future," Branch said. "Those things don't just automatically happen every year so we've got to get better, but at the same time with so many new faces in the lineup there were a lot of unknowns and this team really put together a solid dual season. This team beat a bunch of quality teams in North Carolina, North Carolina State, Michigan State and others. I'm looking at a lot of those duals that could have gone the other way, but our guys for being young wrestled really maturely. We need to continue to do that, but it was a special dual season.
"We wrestle for the postseason, so that's what our focus is on, but we can look at the positive things that we've accomplished this season because it's a very encouraging thing for the program."
In the dual, Wyoming recorded four bonus point wins, including a fall by Tate Samuelson, technical falls by Branson Ashworth and Brian Andrews, and a major decision by Montorie Bridges.
"We were thrown a little bit of a wild card when Jaron (Jensen) didn't make it through skin checks, which we didn't know there was anything to be concerned about," Branch said. "When that happened, we knew we needed to come out and perform well. They started making adjustments and shifting their lineup, and it worked out at 157…When you go down giving up a forfeit and a fall early on, you've got to fight hard.
"I thought we responded well. I think Tate came out and picked up a huge fall for us. We talked at halftime about giving them a reason to quit. He was relentless when he got on top. Brian's victory really sealed it by taking control of the match and not just standing around wrestling conservatively…I didn't think we wrestled badly. We're a little short-handed right now, and when you're giving up a forfeit and don't have an extra guy to go out there, it puts your back against the wall and it's a good experience for our guys to wrestle under some pressure that maybe we wouldn't have felt if everything had been normal."
The dual started at 133 pounds, where Cowboy Montorie Bridges picked up the 10-2 major decision over Sean Cannon. Bridges opened the bout with a takedown to lead 2-1 after one period, followed by an escape, takedown and rideout in the second to stretch his lead to 5-1. Starting the third period on top, the Cowboy redshirt sophomore was able to turn Cannon for a nearfall to secure the major.
At 141, Cowboy Sam Turner grinded out a 4-1 decision over Chris Sandoval to stretch Wyoming's lead to 7-0. Turner picked up a point out of the gate with an early hands to the face call on Sandoval. After the two wrestlers traded escapes to open the second and third, Turner was able to counter a late Sandoval attack with a takedown at the buzzer to secure the victory.
The Bears took the lead over the next two bouts, winning by forfeit at 149 before Dante Rodriguez pinned Cowboy Jed Loveless at 157.
Senior Branson Ashworth got the Cowboys back on the board in the 165-pound bout, taking a 15-0 technical fall over Jordan Robison. Ashworth compiled over five minutes of riding time en route to the victory. The win marked the Cowboys' 30th win this season and locked up his perfect, 20-0 dual record. It also was his team-leading 11th technical fall of the season.
At 174 pounds, Hayden Hastings took a 7-1 decision over Macoy Flanagan to give the Pokes a 15-12 dual lead. Hastings took a 3-0 lead into the second period after an early first-period takedown and rideout, along with a point for unsportsmanlike conduct. After asecond-period rideout, the Cowboy freshman was able to tack on a takedown in the third to ice his 23rd win of the season.
Freshman Tate Samuelson stretched the Cowboy lead to nine at 184 pounds with a big first-period fall over Dalton Robertson. Samuelson decked the Bear in 2:32 for his third pin of the season, pushing his final 2019 dual record to 8-1.
At 197, Cale Davidson dropped a tough, 5-3 match to No. 15 Jacob Seely. Davidson led, 1-0, heading to the third period, but a Seely takedown midway through the frame gave the Bear the late lead. Seely was able to turn Davidson for a two-point nearfall, but Davidson responded with a reversal to cut the deficit to a score. As the clock ticked down the Cowboy redshirt freshman couldn't get the turn, giving Seely the decision.
Heavyweight Brian Andrews clinched the dual win for the Cowboys, as he notched a technical fall over Northern Colorado's Robert Winters in the third period. Andrews strung together a takedown and nearfall in the first, followed by another takedown and tilt in the second. With 1:29 remaining in the match, Andrews was able to convert on a takedown to lock up the tech -- his fourth of the season.
The Bears finished off the day with a major decision by No. 18 Rico Montoya over Cowboy Doyle Trout.
The Cowboys will have a few weeks off from competition before opening postseason action at the Big 12 Championships, set for March 9-10 in Tulsa, Okla.
133: No. 10 Montorie Bridges (WYO) MD Sean Cannon (UNC) 10-2
141: No. 12 Sam Turner (WYO) dec. Chris Sandoval (UNC) 4-1
149: Armando Santillan (UNC) wins by forfeit
157: Dante Rodriguez (UNC) fall Jed Loveless (WYO) 2:33
165: No. 8 Branson Ashworth (WYO) TF Jordan Robison (UNC) 15-0
174: No. 16 Hayden Hastings (WYO) dec. Macoy Flanagan (UNC) 7-1
184: No. 19 Tate Samuelson (WYO) fall Dalton Robertson (UNC) 2:32
197: No. 15 Jacob Seely (UNC) dec. Cale Davidson (WYO) 5-3
HWT: Brian Andrews (WYO) TF Robert Winters (UNC) 15-0
125: No. 16 Rico Montoya (UNC) MD Doyle Trout (WYO) 12-4