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UW mat coach counting on Lander's Hanson

May 12, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

University of Wyoming wrestling coach Mark Branch has plenty of complements for freshman heavyweight Jordan Hanson of Lander.

Hanson, a two-time Class 3-A state wrestling champion from Lander Valley High School, went 5-8 in his first season on the Division I level.

Branch was at the Riverton Country Club on Friday for the annual University of Wyoming Cowboy Joe Club golf tournament.

"Jordan got the injury bug a little bit," Branch said. "He had a couple of concussions later on that probably effected more than anything. They were right in a row."

Branch said Hanson started off the year weighing more than 300 pounds. When Hanson hit midseason, he was down below 250 pounds.

"One of the things that will be critical for him is to develop his mental and physical toughness," Branch said. "It's going to be real important for him to strengthen up. He already has made some big gains."

During the start of the season, UW had freshman Tanner Harms in the heavyweight slot.

Harms was contributing for the Pokes before he tore a hamstring in December.

Leland Pfeifer also spent the large part of the season battling the giants in the heavyweight bracket. Pfeifer wrestled at Hulett High School.

"He is a 184 or 197-pounder who was giving up a lot of weight," Branch said.

Branch said Hanson and Harms are the two solid heavyweights for the future.

"Jordan never backed down," Branch said. "It was tough for him. I expect he is going to grow off this year and start to mature. He will start to figure things out. If he lifts hard, his body will start to become physically stronger."

Branch didn't play in the 18-hole golf tournament but represented the coaches at UW.

"It's great to get out and meet new people," Branch said. "Over the last couple of years, I have talked to people that weren't really wrestling fans that I have stayed in contact with. It's great to build our fan base."

Wyoming's season

The Cowboys finished No. 23 in the nation under the direction of Branch.

"We lost some big-time point scorers from last year," Branch said. "We had a lot of unknowns."

UW won the Western Wrestling Conference title.

Senior Alfonso Hernandez finished seventh at 197 pounds, and sophomore Tyler Cox was eighth in the 125-pound bracket.

"We have a good core to build around," Branch said. "I think that we can be better next year."

Branch makes it a point to sign the top high school wrestlers from Wyoming to his program. The Pokes had four Wyoming native wrestlers in his lineup.

"I think that is a key to get the Wyoming kids here," Branch said. "It's easier for us to recruit them. It's easier for us to keep them there and keep them happy. Most of the in-state kids have grown up loving Wyoming. We don't have to teach that."

2012-13 was Branch's fifth season at the helm. He came to UW after being the associate head wrestling coach at Oklahoma State University.

"We made some really big strides from where we started in all areas," Branch said. "We want to be a top 10 every year."

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