LARAMIE — There were plenty of visitors in attendance for Wyoming's wrestling dual Saturday night against Northern Colorado at the Arena-Auditorium. More than 1,700 fans came out for the Cowboys' Senior Night, a dominant 38-4 victory. A large contingent of Wyoming wrestling alumni were also back in Laramie for the weekend.
And on the Cowboys' bench sat a giant teddy bear with a yellow singlet that read "COLGAN."
It was a gift from 157-pounder Archie Colgan's mom. Colgan was one of six seniors honored Saturday, all of whom wrestled.
"We were teasing him a little bit, because she made it for him and tried to give it to him out there," head coach Mark Branch said. "He said, ‘I still have to wrestle.’ So after his match, I said, ‘You can go get your teddy bear now,’ just joking. I think he didn’t want to hurt mama’s feelings. So we had a visitor on the bench, a guest coach."
The Cowboys weren't as kind to the other Bears, earning their second 38-4 blowout win in as many nights. The Cowboys' growing success as a team this season has allowed Branch to have more fun with his team — luckily for the stuffed bear.
"It’s funny, because I’ve allowed myself to relax a little bit, which is not like me," he said. "I said at the halftime, I’d kind of noticed myself. Like, ‘Gosh, this is not my normal.’ I want to be an example to them, like, ‘Let’s get ready,’ but I guess you gauge each group, and you see that this group is probably performing better in that relaxed atmosphere. So you don’t always have to have that grit and that intensity."
The Cowboys mixed business with pleasure Saturday, winning nine of 10 matches. Senior Ronnie Stevens wrestled in place of top-5 freshman Montorie Bridges at 133 pounds and was the only Cowboy to lose. Colgan, No. 10 at his weight class, won his 157-pound match 6-3, No. 1 Bryce Meredith won by pin in 2:10 to thunderous applause, Kyle Pope won 8-2, Chaz Polson defeated NCAA qualifier Dylan Gabel 8-2, and Luke Paine won by injury default.
Sam Eagan, Drake Foster, Sam Turner and Branson Ashworth also picked up wins, with Foster and Turner winning by fall.
"I mean, honestly, it’s been pretty amazing," Meredith said. "We’ve been kicking everybody’s butts. It’s been like nine matches we’re winning, and that’s with throwing somebody else out there for these last two duals.
"... The energy’s just been amazing in the room. Everybody just came together, and it’s been awesome. For me to go out that way, for us to go out that way, is like everything you could ever wish for."
Polson's win added onto a pair of upsets from the night before against NCAA qualifiers for Utah Valley. Branch said he expected the senior to be in the coaches rankings before long.
Meredith said afterward that he doesn't plan for Wyoming's team success to stop anytime soon.
"Cleveland is during spring break," he said, referring to the NCAA Championships, "and all 10 of us want to be in Cleveland this year for spring break. We don't want to be stuck at home or going to a beach somewhere else. We want to be in the freezing cold of Cleveland, Ohio."
The Cowboys won all five of their duals in Laramie this season, including both at the Arena-Auditorium, though they did fall to Oklahoma State in Cheyenne. The Cowboys knew midway through their previous win at the Dome of Doom, a 40-point blowout over Fresno State, that they wanted to do it again.
"It’s fun having the flames and the band and stuff," Meredith said. "It makes it kind of like that sporting event that we don’t get to experience quite as much as wrestlers. Any time you can get in a bigger venue, it’s great.
"Of course, we wish that we could have people packed to the ceilings, but we’re in a town of 30,000 people. It’s hard to bring that many people in, so I would say the percentage of fans that come out for the percentage of the population that we’re fun is pretty special stuff."
Some of the 1,753 in attendance were former Wyoming wrestlers, who were honored at halftime.
"It was a big group," Branch said. 'It was nice. And we get a lot of positive reviews, but you want to have those connections. It’s important to stay connected to some of those guys.
"So it was good to see some of my old wrestlers and see the weight they’ve put back on. That’s the first thing I look at when I see one of my ex-wrestlers. I’m like, ‘Yes, he was waiting on that unrestricted diet.’"
Wyoming's final dual of the regular season is Friday at Air Force.