LARAMIE – The matchups against his alma mater admittedly get more sentimental as the years pass for University of Wyoming wrestling coach Mark Branch.
Branch won a pair of national titles in the 167-pound classification during his time at Oklahoma State. After wrestling for legendary OSU coach John Smith, Branch spent a number of years as an assistant on Smith’s staff before getting the UW head coaching position in 2008. After a dual meet losing to Fresno State earlier in the week, Branch took a trip down memory lane in an attempt to figure things out.
While Saturday night’s result didn’t go the way he had hoped, Branch still took time to appreciate what Stillwater, Oklahoma, means to him.
No. 7-ranked Oklahoma State defeated UW handily Saturday night, 25-7. The Cowboys’ (7-9 overall, 3-3 Big 12) lone victories came in the final two matches of the night. The meet took place in Arena-Auditorium, the first and only time it will be used as a wrestling venue this season.
“I think there’s more appreciation for the time that I spent there the older I get,” Branch said. “I literally just tried to push myself back as far as I can to go, ‘What am I missing? What is out there that I can grasp on to? … Literally, the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Oklahoma State and experiences there.”
The highlight of the evening took place in the 197-pound class, where No. 23- ranked Stephen Buchanan, a true freshman, upset seventh-ranked Dakota Geer 8-6. Heavyweight Brian Andrews followed up Buchanan’s victory with a 14-0 win over Oklahoma State’s (11-2, 5-1) Austin Harris.
Buchanan’s win contained the sort of passion and fight Branch wished his team could have drawn from earlier in the night when the meet still hung in the balance.
“For us, this dual was about Stephen Buchanan. Watching eight of his teammates go out there, we don’t even score takedowns the first eight matches,” Branch said. “You’re talking about a freshman stepping up in those circumstances against the No. 7-ranked kid in the country. … To see the energy in the third period that he showed, I mean, that’s guts. That’s what we’ve been talking about. You have the rest of the night to be tired. … That was an awesome win for him.”
While UW didn’t have its best night on the mat overall, it was a controversy in the 184-pound bout that got Branch fired up to the point his team was penalized. UW’s Tate Samuelson was called for a second stalling during his match against Anthony Montalvo, which ultimately cost the sophomore the match. Branch had a lengthy, passionate conversation with the referee on the sideline between matches, and a point was deducted from UW’s total.
Branch did not hold back his displeasure following the meet.
“I’m a coach. And our kid lost the match on a call that I thought was bad, and I don’t have the right to come up and yell and show some emotion? I didn’t cuss at you, I didn’t say anything derogatory about your family. I’m a coach,” Branch said.
“This sport has gotten so ridiculous that coaches can’t even say anything to the official and it costs my team. … If you don’t have emotion, you should be fired as a coach. I’m sorry. … There’s no other sport where a team loses points because a coach yells and screams. So I’m very upset with that.
“I have a lot of respect for that official. But I lost a lot tonight. … I promise you this, it wouldn’t have happened on the other end (for Oklahoma State) … I think something needs to change.”
UW hosts Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. next Sunday at the UniWyo Sports Complex.