UCO wrestler Will Steltzlen grapples with William Homalon from Fort Hays State University. Stetzlen pinned Homalon and won this match by pin at 1:59. (Ryan Naeve / The Vista)
Broncho wrestling has a long and storied tradition. Yet, in just his first season as head coach, Todd Steidley has lead his team to break multiple school records.
The Bronchos are ranked seventh in the latest NCAA Division II rankings. They also have four wrestlers who are nationally ranked in their weight classes.
The team has managed to break the school record for consecutive wins with 25. They have also managed to secure the first undefeated dual season in school history at 18-0.
“When I was younger I would’ve said it’s irrelevant without the championship. These guys have made history at a prestigious program and that’s something to be proud of,” Steidley said. “I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Steidley takes a great deal of pride in coaching for UCO. “I’m proud of our tradition. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Steidley said.
In 1987, Steidley contributed to one of the Broncho’s 15 national championships as a junior. He won the 142-lbs national title and earned a team title.
This season has roots dating back to the end of last year. The Bronchos closed out the 2015-2016 season with seven straight dual wins, setting up the 25-win streak.
“We don’t expect to lose any matches. Whether a guy is number one, whether they’re Division I guys, we expect to win every match,” second-ranked, 197-lb wrestler Greg Wilson said. The junior has been a key in the Bronchos’ perfect season thus far.
With their killer attitude, the Bronchos took down every challenge in their way. When they beat second-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, the season started to look like it could be special.
The victory put the Bronchos on top of the MIAA Conference Dual standings and was a key step to capturing an illusive undefeated season.
The Bronchos seemed to have a knack for knocking off ranked opponents during their streak. The team finished the year 7-0 against other teams in the top 25, including two wins against top-ten foes.
“We just look at it as another day, keep moving forward,” seond-ranked heavyweight Caleb Cotter said. The big man plays a key part of the team, anchoring most duels. “Usually I’m just so in the zone I don’t even think about it,” Cotter said. The 6’2″ Sapulpa native has dominated the entire season, boasting a 21-3 record.
The two big guys, Cotter and Wilson, give the Bronchos stability at the back end of duels. Combined, the two have only lost seven matches on the year.
“This is my first season that I’ve gotten to the end. I’ve had injuries and eligibility issues, so I’m super excited to get out there and do what I’ve been waiting to do for four years,” Wilson said.
The season was capped off with a win against Fort Hays State University on Feb. 5. The win solidified the MIAA Conference Dual Championship and locked down the first undefeated wrestling season UCO has ever had.
“I think momentum throughout the year has carried pretty tremendously. I mean, guys attitudes, we’re a confident team and we show that when we wrestle,” Wilson said.
While it may be impressive to the outside world, inside the wrestling room this is exactly what was expected. “I think this isn’t really a surprise to anybody in this room,” Wilson said.
Coach Steidley has managed to build upon an already rich culture that surrounds the program.
“We’ve really stressed family atmosphere, having each other’s back,” Steidley said, “We’ve stressed being more physical, being tough, being more aggressive. Our conditioning is great with Coach Black in the off-season. He had them doing stuff that would make a billy goat throw up,” Steidley said.
The physicality and fitness on which Steidley has focused has proven to be effective throughout the season. However, the biggest prize is still on the horizon for the team. Steidley has made it clear what another National Championship would mean to him.
“It would be awesome to cap it off with a National Championship. It would be a Cinderella season,” Steidley said.
The Bronchos move forward, looking to win the MIAA Conference Tournament and possibly the National Championship on March 11. Regardless of the outcome, their coach is still proud of his team. “No matter what happens from here on out, they’ve broken several records and can continue to do that next year. I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”