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Wyoming Athletics | March 7, 2014

New film documents Wyoming's national title in '43 with war in its future

Wyoming won the national championship in 1943. Shortly after their triumph, several Cowboys started training for a bigger fight: World War II.

A new movie about the Cowboys’ epic championship game victory against St. John’s in fabled Madison Square Garden premieres Thursday in Laramie, Wyo.

On April 1, 1943, at the height of World War II, a basketball game was played at Madison Square Garden in New York City by men who were about to go off to war.It was between Wyoming, the NCAA champion, and St. John's, the NIT champion at a time when both tournaments were recognized as national championships.

This was the first game that pitted the winners of competing championships together -- thus it is considered the first unified national collegiate basketball championship.

But this story is about more than a game, illustrated by the fact that the championship game was a benefit for the American Red Cross. It is a story of perseverance and survival -- of the hard times of the World War II homefront, the cold winters of Laramie, and one of the storied teams of East Coast basketball.

The 61-minute documentary includes interviews with Kenny Sailors, the last surviving Cowboys player in the game; players Jimmie Reese and Tony Katana, and the children of Cowboys players Milo Komenich, Floyd Volker and Lew Roney.

Sailors, 93, was the shooting guard on the 1943 team and was the national player of the year. He was inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame and is widely credited as the innovator of the modern-day jump shot.

Also interviewed are former U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson, who drove for miles with his parents to listen to this historic game on the radio, and played for the Cowboys a decade later; Marialyce Barrett Tobin, who attended the game and is the daughter of a former Wyoming governor; Jim Brandenburg, former Wyoming coach; Tracy Ringolsby, Hall of Fame sportswriter; and Ken Cook, former Wyoming football player.

The film is narrated by Dave Walsh, in his 30th season as voice of Cowboys basketball and football, and directed by Kim Komenich, son of star Cowboys center Milo Komenich.

“This Cowboys movie was obviously a labor of love for me because that team was very important to my dad," Komenich said. "But everyone we talked with is really happy this story is now a documentary film! There is Cowboys’ Pride everywhere in Wyoming.”

See a preview of Cowboys at http://cowboysmovie.com/

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