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By Scott Nulph
WyoSports 

Big dreams in the Big Apple

University of Wyoming wrestling begins NCAA meet at Madison Square Garden in New York City

 

March 17, 2016



The overall numbers might not be what the University of Wyoming wrestling program expects for the national tournament, but there’s still plenty of excitement and anticipation as Wyoming will have three wrestlers competing today during the opening day of the 2016 NCAA National Championships in New York City.

Senior Tanner Harms, junior Drew Templeman and sophomore Bryce Meredith will represent the Cowboys during the three-day tournament at iconic Madison Square Garden.

It’s the smallest group of Cowboys to wrestle in the national meet since 2008, coming in the first year Wyoming competed in the Big 12 Conference.

“It’s not something I want to make a habit of and I’m disappointed that we don’t have more and that’s a bigger picture,” Cowboys wrestling coach Mark Branch said. “Our focus went straight to these guys (after the Big 12 Tournament) and you don’t think about next season. We’ve focused our training on these guys getting them ready.”

Harms and Meredith come into the tournament seeded at 285 and 141 pounds, respectively, while Templeman wrestles at 125 pounds unseeded.

In years past that might have meant a bigger advantage for Harms and Meredith, but that’s not the case now.

“Since they’ve changed the format of qualification, there’s no doubt that the 33 guys at each weight are the 33 guys deserving to be here,” Branch said. “There’s no easy way in. The difference between (being seeded) 1 and 20 is really not that far off. It’s there for the taking whether you’re seeded or not.

“If you put together your best five matches, you can make some special things happen.”

Meredith — in his first year at Wyoming after transferring from North Carolina State — is seeded No. 14 at 141 pounds. He’ll be making his first NCAA appearance after narrowly missing out last year with the Wolfpack.

“I was so heartbroken that I didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year,” he said. “That fueled me all year, and now that it’s here I want to make the most of it. It’s what I set out to do and it’s the first step of my overall goal to be an All-American and a national champ.”

Meredith will wrestle Arizona State’s Robbie Mathers (22-11) in the first round today. Meredith could also meet up with former NC State teammate Kevin Jack in the second round if both advance.

The former Cheyenne Central standout also has drawn some motivation from not making the Big 12 championship match at 141 two weeks ago despite being seeded second.

“It just shows that everybody can wrestle,” Meredith said. “As much as it hurt, it can also be an advantage because I know I can be that next guy to beat somebody 10 spots ahead of me.”

Harms is making his second straight NCAA appearance.

Seeded 15th at heavyweight, Harms (19-4) — who went 0-2 at nationals last year — opens the tournament against unseeded Garrett Ryan of Columbia (22-8).

“Going into this tournament I have one more chance to wrestle, one more chance to go and take everything that I’ve learned through the last five years and use those things to compete the best that I can,” Harms said.

Templeman — the eighth straight Cowboy under Branch to qualify for the national meet at 125 pounds —draws the toughest first-round opponent of Wyoming’s contingent, facing No. 8 seed Barlow McGhee of Missouri (21-7) to start the day.

“I didn’t make it last year (to the NCAA meet) and that really stung,” Templeman said. “I put in a good summer and it’s something that I’ve been working for since my season ended last year. I’m not here to have fun, I’m here to wrestle and make a name for myself at Madison Square Garden.”

And wrestling at such an iconic venue wasn’t lost on Wyoming’s contingent.

“Going to MSG and having the lights on you and being the main event is amazing,” Meredith said. “It’s what we live for. It’s a blessing we have the opportunity to go to one of the greatest arenas we know and wrestle.”

Added Branch: “It adds a little bit of excitement I think. Everybody here knows what’s at stake and what they’ve worked for. You don’t have to hype it up much, but given the fact that it is in New York City and at Madison Square Garden, that alone raises the excitement level and adrenaline for these guys to make this trip.”

Friday’s semifinal matches at and Saturday’s championship finals — both at 6 p.m. MDT — will be televised by ESPN.

 
 

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