2017 was a jam-packed year for Wyoming athletics, beginning with drama and ending with even more of it — and that’s just the Josh Allen component. Teams throughout the UW athletics department saw success, while memorable members of those teams saw the Laramie chapters of their careers come to a close.
1. Josh Allen returns for one more season
It’s hard to believe now, but this time last year, the thought of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen as an NFL Draft pick was fairly far-fetched. 2017 changed that right away. Allen’s draft stock shot up in January, and his decision to come back to Wyoming took longer than Pokes fans’ heart rates would have preferred.
Allen didn’t enjoy the victory lap he had hoped for as a junior. He struggled against Wyoming’s two Power Five opponents, the Cowboys’ offense noticeably missed the four NFL players who left after 2016, and Allen sat the final two regular season games with an injury. But he returned for a successful Potato Bowl and afterward announced he would be entering the 2018 draft, as most expected.
2. Bryce Meredith beats Dean Heil in Cheyenne
In the spring, 141-pound wrestler Bryce Meredith fell short of repeating his feat of finishing second at the NCAA championships. In the winter, though, he got revenge on the wrestler who denied him that championship in 2016. Meredith took down top-ranked Dean Heil of Oklahoma State on Dec. 19 at Storey Gym in Cheyenne, Meredith’s home town.
The senior had faced Heil four times before but had never won before the 2-1 double-overtime win. Heil had entered the dual with a 55-match winning streak. Meredith was coming off a 141-pound title at the Reno Tournament of Champions, which included wins over two top-five opponents, including former North Carolina State teammate Kevin Jack.
3. Wyoming men’s basketball wins the CBI
The Cowboys’ first season under head coach Allen Edwards was filled with ups — taking ranked Southern California to overtime — and downs — falling behind 25-0 to Air Force in the Mountain West tournament. But it ended on a high note as the Cowboys defeated Coastal Carolina in the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational championship series.
It was Wyoming’s first postseason invitational championship since 1943. Edwards became the seventh coach to win a postseason invitational championship in their first year as a head coach and the second Wyoming coach to win 20 games in his first year as the Cowboys’ head coach.
4. Wyoming women’s basketball reaches WNIT
The Cowgirls concluded their impressive season, which surprised even head coach Joe Legerski, with a trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The Cowgirls finished second in the Mountain West in the regular season, though they went 0-1 at the conference tournament, and Legerski was named the Mountain West coach of the year.
Liv Roberts earned all-conference and all-Mountain West defensive team honors, though she missed the end of the season with a torn ACL. Taylor Rusk made the all-freshman team and Marta Gomez was honored as the Sixth Player of the Year. The Cowgirls beat Seattle in the first round of the WNIT before falling in overtime to Washington State.
5. Carter, DeStefano are all-Americans
Wyoming’s track and field team netted a pair of all-Americans in June. Scott Carter was a first-team all-American, finishing third in the nation in the triple jump with a jump of 53 feet, 3.5 inches at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. No Cowboy had achieved the feat in the triple jump since 2002.
Audra DeStefano earned honorable mention all-American honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Gillette native finished 21st in Eugene, Oregon, becoming the first Wyoming all-American on the women’s side since 2011. She was also named the Mountain West Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.
6. Wyoming football wins Potato Bowl
The Cowboys snapped a bowl game drought in 2016, reaching their first since 2011. The 2017 team went one step further, becoming the first Wyoming team to win a bowl game since 2009. The Cowboys beat Central Michigan with ease, 34-17 in the Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
Allen threw three first-quarter touchdowns and was named the MVP of the game, while Wyoming’s defense forced a program- and bowl-record eight turnovers. Though the Cowboys were unable to repeat as Mountain Division champions, they equaled their 2016 win total with eight.
7. Jason McManamen reaches milestones
Wyoming’s 2016-17 men’s basketball team wasn’t heavy on senior leadership, as the team had just two seniors and one, Morris Marshall, was injured for much of the season. The other, though, made his mark on the history books. Jason McManamen, a Torrington graduate, ended his career with the Wyoming record in 3-pointers made, 210.
“J-Mac” broke Brandon Ewing’s previous record of 193 at Colorado State. McManamen also crossed the 1,000-point threshold in Wyoming’s CBI semifinal win over Utah Valley. His 1,034 career points are fourth in Wyoming history among Equality Staters.
8. Two Cowboys selected in NFL Draft
Wyoming running back Brian Hill chose to leave Wyoming with one season of eligibility remaining for the 2017 NFL Draft. Hill, who played through a fractured wrist to finish out his Wyoming career, was selected in the fifth round by Atlanta. Center Chase Roullier, a senior in 2016, was drafted by Washington in the sixth round.
Hill was eventually waived by Atlanta before being picked up by Cincinnati. Roullier would start as a rookie for a Washington team that suffered numerous injuries to its offensive line. Wyoming tight end Jacob Hollister (Patriots) and receiver Tanner Gentry (Bears) were signed as undrafted free agents, while 2015 Wyoming senior Eddie Yabrough caught on with the Bills.
9. Cowgirls volleyball reaches NIVC
Wyoming volleyball capped off a successful season with a trip to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The Cowgirls made their fifth postseason appearance in program history, ending a drought dating back to 1994.
Wyoming went 17-13 in the regular season, and Tara Traphagan and Jackie McBride earned all-conference honors, while Marissa Harmon was named Mountain West freshman of the year. Wyoming fell to TCU in the first round of the tournament in three sets in Denton, Texas.
10. UW completes Arena-Auditorium renovations
Wyoming’s second phase of renovations to the Arena-Auditorium finished in time for the Cowboys and Cowgirls to open their 2017-18 basketball seasons. The $30 million, two-phase renovations, the second of which cost $13 million, included a new main entrance on the east side, as well as improved fan amenities and a statue of Wyoming legend Kenny Sailors.
The renovations were not without controversy, however. Green River artist Rudy Gunter had originally been announced as the sculptor of the Sailors statue, and Gunter and his family felt mistreated by the university. Oregon artist Jay Warren sculpted the statue that was used, but Gunter completed his statue, saying he was never told there would be another one.