Photo: Bryce Meredith celebrates his overtime victory against Dean Heil. Photo by Nick Brown, RootedMediaHouse.com.
Last night, third-ranked Bryce Meredith of Wyoming notched one of the best wins of his college career, knocking off two-time NCAA champion and No. 1 Dean Heil of Oklahoma State in a dual in front of his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo.
“I just felt like I could always do something like this for the city and to do it in front of them is awesome,” Meredith said. “(Heil) took a national title away from me [in 2016]. There’s no guarantee that through health or anything that you’ll ever get back there. You never know. Him taking that national title away from me hurts. Now I got one in front of my home crowd and I know they’re proud.”
Wyoming was taking on No. 3 Oklahoma State in a dual. Meredith, a two-time All-American, and Heil were Tuesday night’s finale.
The two had met four times before with Heil holding a 4-0 advantage in the series. Among their meetings were the 2016 NCAA finals in Madison Square Garden, where Heil won, 3-2, for his first national title and the 2017 Big 12 finals, where Heil separated himself a little more with a 10-7 victory.
“Of course there was a little bit of doubt there going in,” Meredith said. “To say you’re 100 percent confident that you’re going to win a match like that is a lie. I’ve never beat him, and when you’re 0-4 against somebody, it starts to weigh on you. You start wondering if you actually can beat him.”
Despite those doubts whispering in his ear, Meredith, coming off an incredible effort at the Reno TOC, said he had a feeling the outcome of this matchup would be different.
“I knew I could break him,” Meredith said. “I’ve been in some hard matches this week. I’m mentally prepared to go all seven minutes. Mentally, I’m ready to grind out a whole match. When I got out there I was like, ‘This is it. You’re going to beat him.’ He hasn’t been grinding quite like I have this last week.”
The first period produced no score, and the two went on to exchange escape points in the second and third periods. It was knotted 1-1 at the end of regulation, sending the match to overtime.
Although overtime can bring a lot of pressure and intensity, Meredith said he knew he already had the match won after only five minutes.
“After he didn’t get a quick takedown at the end of the second period, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m winning this match,’” Meredith said. “That’s how every match has gone almost. He gets a takedown with short time left and I almost gave it up again. I was really getting mad at myself when I ended up back in that position off my shot. I didn’t want to be in that fountain position. I’m glad I ended up fighting it off well. It kind of hurt my leg a little bit, but it was worth it.”
With near takedowns coming from both wrestlers in the one-minute sudden-victory period, the score still stood at 1-1. The bout went to rideouts, and Heil was unable to get off bottom in the first 30-second period.
Feeding off an powerful atmosphere that featured 2,580 passionate fans, Meredith was able to tally an escape in 18 seconds and held off Heil for the remaining time to secure the 2-1 win.
Meredith’s dramatic triumph snapped Heil’s 55-match win streak, which dated back to Feb. 19, 2016.
Although Oklahoma State won the dual, 20-15, the buzz in the arena would make you think otherwise. The Wyoming Cowboys picked off four past All-Americans and top-10 opponents in an exciting battle.
In addition to Meredith downing Heil, No. 20 Montorie Bridges edged out All-American and No. 3 Kaid Brock at 133 pounds, Sam Turner defeated No. 8 Geo Martinez at 149 pounds and No. 15 Branson Ashworth outlasted No. 5 Chandler Rogers at 165 pounds.
“My team really put on today and we really showed up. It’s a bummer that we let that one slip away. It would have been the greatest week ever with that,” Meredith said after the dual.
That said, it was an exceptional week for Meredith. In a span of three days, he had upset the Nos. 5, 2 and 1 guys at the weight, respectively.
On Sunday, Meredith competed at the Reno Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nev. He opened the event with three first-period falls, sailing to the semifinals, where he faced No. 5 Jaydin Eierman of Mizzou. Meredith took a 3-2 win.
In the finals, he was pitted against long-time foe Kevin Jack of North Carolina State, ranked No. 2 in the country.
It was the second time this year that the two went head-to-head with Jack taking an 8-7 win at the NWCA All-Star Classic to start the year.
Meredith avenged the loss, winning another close one, 3-2.
“My confidence is always there, but obviously this helps. This weekend, I pretty much went through the national tournament right there. It’s only December. It’s great to finally get those wins under my belt,” he said.
With the crazy momentum Meredith has picked up over the last few days, he said it’s important to treat the upcoming holiday break as just that; a break.
Once he gets back in action on Jan. 5, Meredith plans to stay purposeful in his training and let go of the pressure put on him by others to succeed.
“I have a little bit more of a target on my back now,” Meredith said. “Whether it’s No.1, 2 or 3, it’s all the same. You’re all on that same level. You’re all at the top. I have to stay purposeful. I have to stay focused. I can’t get too excited over this. I have to take the criticism from my coaches and get better because I still didn’t get a takedown on (Heil). There’s room to improve.”