2x NCAA All-American Stephen Buchanan (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
In 1960, Wyoming crowned their first and only individual NCAA Champion when Dick Ballinger won the 167-pound National Title helping lead the Cowboys to their highest NCAA team finish in program history.
There's one guy heading into his senior season for the Pokes that looks like he could have a shot to become the second to accomplish the feat.
Stephen Buchanan has been a monster for Wyoming for the past three years. Competing as a true freshman in 2019-20, Buchanan went 26-13 and qualified for the NCAA tournament, before it was canceled due to Covid. He improved on that finish in subsequent seasons going 17-6 as a sophomore and becoming an All-American with an eighth-place finish in 2021. Buchanan jumped one more level in 2022 going 28-3 and finishing third at the NCAA tournament with his only losses coming to defending NCAA Champion AJ Ferrari, Owen Pentz where he was caught and pinned in the North Dakota State dual, and Jacob Warner who beat Buchanan in the NCAA semifinals.
AJ Ferrari will not return to Oklahoma State next season. He may still return to wrestling but that remains to be seen. Jacob Warner has a year of eligibility left due to the COVID eligibility rule, and last year's NCAA champion Max Dean returns to Penn State to defend his NCAA title from last season. And Cael Sanderson's guys tend to stay on top once they've reached that crescendo.
Though the two guys that finished above Buchanan last year are back, the door is still open for him to win an NCAA title. His match with Warner was close and it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility for him to overtake the pair next season. These marked and consistent improvements year by year are the most promising thing for Wyoming fans as they follow Buchanan as he pursues this feat.
In his first season, Buchanan had a 67% winning percentage. The next season that moved to 74%. And last year it jumped all the way to 90%. Yes, guys graduate and move on and that allows younger guys to jump levels and take over weight classes. But there's a clear pattern of improvement each season by Buchanan. Whatever mix of work he puts in combined with the training and planning that the Wyoming staff have for him each year is working. He consistently gets better.
And that steady improvement could have him making history this upcoming season. If he finishes as an All-American again he'll become just the fourth three-time All-American in program history alongside Ballinger, Reese Andy, and Bryce Meredith. If he so chooses, due to the COVID eligibility year, he can come back another season with another shot at an NCAA title. And with that, Buchanan could also potentially become the program's second 4-time All-American matching Joe LeBlanc who accomplished the mark from 2009-2012.
Regardless, Buchanan will likely finish out his career as one of the All-Time greats in Wyoming wrestling history.