photo courtesy of Laken Detweiler
One of the most storied programs in NCAA Division II comes from Super Region 4, in the Bronchos of Central Oklahoma. In total, 15 National Championships have been brought to Edmond, Oklahoma, seven since the program became full-time DII members in the 1989-90 season, the last in 2007. The Bronchos are also one of the nation’s oldest programs, with UCO wrestling its first season in 1921. In that time, the program has placed as a team 34 times, 18 of those as a D2 member.
“It’s an honor for me to be the head coach with the great history we have here at Central Oklahoma,” Head Coach Todd Steidley said. “To be the fourth coach in the program’s recent history and to follow guys like David James, Eddie Griffith and Jim Rogers and be a part of the history and support we have here is unbelievable. There are and have been many, many high school coaches in Oklahoma that are UCO guys. Our Broncho Wrestling Family is amazing, and our guys all come back to see our duals and see our facility. I’m just proud to be a Broncho, we feel like our tradition is a rich one, and I am excited to see us continue it.”
Sixty-seven National Champions have come through the UCO room, 40 of those with the program a D2 member. The last Broncho National Champion, Eli Hale, who took the top of the podium at 125 in 2018, is a current assistant coach. There are many in D2 who thought the next Broncho champion would be crowned this year, with Super Region 4 and Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Wrestler of the Year, Heath Gray, putting up a 29-1 record en route to the top seed at 184. The junior’s lone loss of the year came to the 197 starter for Oklahoma State, Dakota Geer, all the way back in November in just his second match of the season.
Gray returns for the Bronchos next season, who were a mainstay in the top 10 nationally after a runner-up performance at December’s Midwest Classic. Joining the, will-be #1 at 184, are four additional returning starters in Tanner Cole, Brik Filippo, Ty Lucas and Dalton Abney. Abney earned both MIAA and Super Region 4 Freshman of the Year honors, and joined Gray and Lucas as an NWCA All-American this season, while Filippo also qualified for Nationals and Cole spent most of the season ranked in the top 12 at 125. Another handful of Bronchos will vye for spots in the lineup coming off of redshirt, activating the impressive recruiting class brought in by Steidley last year.