Montorie Bridges

University of Wyoming redshirt freshman Montorie Bridges, top, takes on South Dakota State junior Seth Gross during the 133-pound quarterfinals at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cleveland.

The University of Wyoming wrestling team is in the middle of the sport’s silly season.

It’s the months of November and December, when teams flip back and forth between duals and individual tournaments.

It’s something Cowboys coach Mark Branch would like to see changed within the sport, but he also understands the reality of the situation.

“It’s kind of confusing, but it’s the way it always is,” Branch said. “If you could go back and restructure the college wrestling season – maybe splitting it into two seasons – that has been talked about with having a tournament season and a dual season.

“The back and forth is confusing, and you prepare differently and the competition is completely different. You have to change the way you focus for those events and prepare for them.”

UW hosts North Dakota State in a Big 12 dual at 5 p.m. today at Arena-Auditorium.

The 21st-ranked Cowboys (2-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) are coming off an 11th-place finish at the talent-rich Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational last weekend.

Four Cowboys placed in the event – senior Branson Ashworth finished fifth at 165 pounds, sophomore Montorie Bridges was sixth at 133, sophomore Brian Andrews was seventh at heavyweight and sophomore Sam Turner finished eighth at 141.

Vegas was a mixed bag of results for the Cowboys, as they continue to work through the early part of the season.

“All experiences will help us right now,” Branch said. “We had some kids make dumb mistakes, and we had some kids make aggressive mistakes, which is OK. Brian Andrews had a great tournament on the consolation side. He wrestled an opponent who was having an amazing tournament, and it was one of the matches of the tournament, and he was right there and just made an aggressive mistake.”

Both the Cowboys and 19th-ranked Bison come into today’s dual ranked and with three ranked wrestlers.

One of the three for the Cowboys is Andrews (12-4), who jumped into the heavyweight rankings at No. 20 after his finish last weekend. Ashworth (14-3) fell one spot to No. 7, while Bridges (13-6) remained steady at No. 13.

Both Ashworth and Bridges will face ranked opponents today.

Bridges wrestles 15th-ranked Cam Sykora, while Ashworth will face No. 13 Andrew Fogarty. Fogarty will be the third straight ranked wrestler Ashworth has seen, and the ninth this season in 18 matches. The UW senior is 5-3 over the first eight.

NDSU also wrestled in Las Vegas, with the only matchup between the two schools a 6-5 win by Bridges over Sykora.

“We saw them out in Vegas, and they have a much different team than they had last year, as well,” Branch said. “We went up there (to Fargo, North Dakota) last year and had a really good dual, but we’re a way different team and they’re a way different team. I don’t know what to expect. They’ve got a lot of new guys in their lineup, but they have a consistent style.”

After today, the Cowboys wrestle in the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 20 in their final event before Christmas.

Scott Nulph is the WyoSports assistant editor. He can be reached at snulph@wyosports.net or 307-755-3324. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottNulph.

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