LARAMIE, Wyo. — The No. 22 Wyoming wrestling team opens the season on Saturday when it hosts the Cowboy Open.
The first Cowboy Open took place in 1974 under head coach Joe Dowler. With the exception of four seasons, Wyoming has hosted the event every year since. This year marks the 29th-straight season that Wyoming has hosted the tournament.
Wyoming, coached by reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year Mark Branch, returns three NCAA qualifiers from last season, including All-American Montorie Bridges.
Last season, the Cowboys finished in fourth at the Big 12 Championships. The finish was the highest for a Wyoming team since joining the Big 12 in 2015.
At the NCAA Championships, Bridges became the program's second freshman All-American, finishing eighth at 133 pounds. As a team, Wyoming tallied its best finish under branch as the Cowboys placed 17th. It was the 20th top-25 finish and third in a row for Wyoming.
“I like where we’re at. We’ve had some good workouts here leading up to this weekend and the young guys have really shown a lot of toughness and scrap in the room, so that’s been good. It’s just been exciting,” Wyoming coach Mark Branch said in a press release from the school. “As a head coach — and not a new head coach anymore — little things like that excite me about the unknown. We do have to replace a lot of guys in our lineup, but also have some really solid guys that have done some great things for this program. Instead of being scared or anxious, I’ve been excited and it’s going to be fun to watch them go out and wrestle this weekend.
“This (weekend) is always such an evaluation process. I mean, obviously we want to compete well. This is a big event for us since we host it and we get all of the families in here. Pretty much everybody comes to the Cowboy Open. You want to represent yourself well, but we’re excited to come out next week and see what we learned. We met at the beginning of this week—my staff and I—and we asked ourselves if there was anything we were missing that seems really crucial that we cover before this weekend. Everybody just kind of stood around with a blank stare. I just think we need to wrestle, and then we’ll have our answers about what we need to do. We just want to go out and wrestle hard. I want to see the fight that we have and get to work. That’s really when you can go to work because we always have so many answers after this tournament.”