ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. — After falling into an early hole, Wyoming clawed its way back from a seven-point deficit to claim a 25-13 dual win against Oklahoma on Friday night.
Looking at a 10-3 deficit after three matches, the 20th-ranked Cowboys (2-1 overall) cranked it up and went on a 22-3 run in the next seven matches to beat No. 10 OU (2-1) for only the second time in series history. The win gave Wyoming head coach Mark Branch his 50th dual victory in his fifth season, becoming just the fifth coach in UW history to achieve 50 or more wins. He now is 50-17 at Wyoming.
Action began at 125 pounds as sophomore Tyler Cox took on Oklahoma’s Kyle Garcia. Cox entered the final period down 6-5 but scored four points in the final session to earn the 9-6 decision to give Wyoming the 3-0 lead.
The Sooners got on the board when UW senior Kasey Garnhart took on 10th-ranked Cody Brewer at 133 pounds, and Brewer secured a 16-6 major decision. That gave OU the 4-3 edge, and the Sooners added to that when Wyoming senior McCade Ford took on No. 1 Kendric Maple of OU in the 141-pound match. Maple’s pin at 1:29 gave OU a 10-3 lead after three bouts.
But shortly after, Wyoming sophomore Brandon Richardson got the biggest win of his career, beating No. 6 Nick Lester in a 4-3 decision at 149 pounds to draw Wyoming to within four points. Sophomore Andy McCulley then continued the hot start to his season, beating ninth-ranked Matt Lester at 157 pounds in an 8-1 decision to make it 10-9. McCulley, ranked 12th by Amateur Wrestling News, won his fourth match of the year against a ranked wrestler, and now has 14 total wins.
“If we want to have a chance to upset a good team like OU, we can’t give up bonus points,” Branch said. “That put us in a big hole. We needed something to change the tide, and Brandon Richardson had a breakthrough. He had a huge win, but the way he won was by being really courageous in his match. That really shifted the momentum and Andy took advantage of that. It really gave some hope and some belief to those guys following them. They could see the possibilities. The attitudes were changing.”
Oklahoma padded its lead after sixth-ranked Bubby Graham won an 8-5 decision against UW sophomore Dakota Friesth at 165 to give OU a 13-9 advantage. But Cowboy senior L.J. Helbig got the momentum back, beating Matt Reed in a 5-2 decision at 174 pounds to cut the OU edge to 13-12. Sophomore Shane Woods tacked on three more UW points with a 4-2 decision against Greg Wilson, and Wyoming reclaimed the lead for good.
“With L.J. and Shane, their opponents weren’t ranked but those guys have struggled, and to come out and win when the dual was within reach, that was huge,” Branch said. “Those guys wrestled smart and aggressively. Those wins were just as important as Brandon and Andy’s.”
UW earned bonus-point wins when fourth-ranked senior Alfonso Hernandez won the 197-pound bout in a 19-6 major decision and redshirt freshman Tanner Harms pinned OU’s Keldrick Hall to end the night.
Hernandez got the 99th win of his career and with one more win, will become only the 15th wrestler in UW history to reach 100.