LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming wrestling team spent parts of December in Reno, Nevada, and Miami.
So when the Cowboys returned from the South Beach Duals on Dec. 30, knowing they wouldn’t have to travel again until Feb. 3, they also knew they had to take advantage of the time at home.
And they have.
The Cowboys – winners of five consecutive duals – have climbed to No. 11 in the latest Intermat.com rankings as they host Oregon State at 2 p.m. Sunday at the UniWyo Sports Complex.
UW also has had as many as eight of its wrestlers ranked individually this season after only two were ranked early on.
“It’s nice just to get some steady training in,” Cowboys coach Mark Branch said. “It makes it more difficult when you’re on the road and fitting in travel days.”
The long home stand came at a good time for UW, Branch added.
“Coming off Christmas break, we had a little lapse in our training and then went straight into the South Beach Duals,” the coach said. “To get everyone back together and get back into a normal routine has been good.”
UW is in the middle of a six-dual home stand that started with three duals Jan. 4. The Cowboys won all three, including a tense 20-15 win over No. 15-ranked North Carolina.
The Cowboys host Air Force on Jan. 18 and West Virginia on Jan. 27 to close out the home stand. UW won’t wrestle on the road until Feb. 3 duals at Fresno State and Cal State Bakersfield.
“It’s been really nice not having to worry about travel or anything and getting to work in your own facilities,” UW senior 165-pounder Branson Ashworth said. “The workouts are easier, and the times are the same; everything’s the same.”
Ashworth comes into Sunday ranked No. 8 with a 22-3 record. Ashworth has won 13 of his 22 matches by either major decision, technical fall or pin, including each of his last five.
“It just shows I’ve been dominant this year and scoring a lot of points,” Ashworth said. “To get ahead by 15 points against good competition shows how good I’ve been wrestling.
“I’m putting the techniques I’ve been learning to work. I got the tools in my shed, now I’ve just got to be sharpening them.”
Bonus points have played a key role in several dual victories for the Cowboys this season, including the deciding criteria in UW’s 22-21 win over fourth-ranked North Carolina State on Dec. 29.
“Having guys out there scoring bonus points is what really earned that victory for us,” Branch said. “It’s something that Bryce (Meredith) brought to the table for several years, and they add a lot of enthusiasm to the team.”
UW faces a Beavers team ranked 17th by FloWrestling. Oregon State has three ranked wrestlers, but two of those are in the top five. Ronnie Bresser (12-1) is No. 3 at 125 pounds, and heavyweight Amar Dhesi is No. 4 while just coming back from injury this season.
“They have a solid team and a couple of big-time studs at 125 and heavyweight,” Branch said. “Those are guys who are big challenges for Cole Verner and Brian Andrews. Throughout their lineup, they’ve got a lot of tough kids.
“They pose a definite challenge, and we’re going to have to wrestle our best.”
The Cowgirls kick off the spring portion of their schedule with three matches in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend.
UW plays Oral Roberts at 8 a.m. and Louisiana Tech at 1 p.m. today and host Tulsa at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
“This team has worked extremely hard the entire fall in all aspects of its game,” Cowgirls coach Dean Clower said in a UW release. “Going to Tulsa to start the season will give us a sense of where we are as a team, which will be exciting to watch.”
Junior Ana Royo, a transfer from Nebraska-Kearney, led UW in the fall with a 9-6 singles record, while freshmen Ana Fernandez and Maria Oreshkina went 8-8 and 6-5, respectively.
Six Cowgirls won at least six singles matches this fall.
In doubles, the freshman team of Mihaela Kaftanova and Ida Krause went 4-0, with Fernandez/Royo finishing 6-3 and seniors Elisa Koonik and Tessa van Der Ploeg 5-8.
UW plays its first 10 duals away from Laramie – including one against Montana State in Casper on March 1 – before finishing the regular season with eight of its last 10 duals at home.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.