CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now)- The NCAA Wrestling Championships were set to take place at U.S. bank stadium in Minneapolis, MN. It was expect to have 45,000 attendees, however, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, fans were banned before the complete cancellation of the tournament on Thursday, March 12, 2020. UW Head Coach, Mark Branch went into the locker room and saw the look his wrestlers had, knowing they wouldn’t be able to compete in the tournament.
"It was depressing,” Branch said. “They were just devastated, quiet, kind of in mourning, it felt like a funeral. To not even be able to go out there and give yourself that opportunity to accomplish your goals you've been working on for so long was really heart-wrenching."
Five Wyoming Cowboys qualified for the tournament:
-Montorie Bridges: 133lbs
-Hayden Hastings: 174lbs
-Tate Samuelson: 184lbs
-Stephen Buchanan: 197lbs
-Brian Andrews: Heavyweight.
"It's been pretty hard to know all the sacrifices we been through as a team and not to be able to finish the journey," Branch said.
Former Cowboy wrestler, Bryce Meredith, realizes the opportunity one has to make a name for themselves, during the tournament.
"The only thing that really mattered at the end of the wrestling season was the national tournament,” Meredith said. “Of course you got to take your regular season serious to built into that tournament. At the end of the day, that's the only thing that matters, that's the only thing that people remember you by."
Meredith made it to the NCAA championships three consecutive seasons, during his tenure with Wyoming. He finished in second place his sophomore and senior seasons, and fourth his junior year. Not only do wrestlers work up to this point to win, but he also sees the tournament as an opportunity for wrestlers to build their brand.
"Taking away the national tournament can forever ruin these guys' careers in their coaching and their clinics, their post college seasons,” Meredith said. "That's where you make all your money, and that's where you become marketable, it's really from that tournament."
Meredith hopes that athletes still find a way to set themselves up for success, after their collegiate career and that this epidemic can be a way for people to stay optimistic about the future.
"Since literally the entire world is almost in the same boat, I feel like it's been almost easier to stay positive with everything."
Fortunately for the Pokes, the five wrestlers who qualified for the tournament weren't seniors.