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In terms of eligibility, and the fact that games, matches and meets were played, the winter sports season was a bonus. After nearly a year of unprecedented change worldwide, due to COVID-19, anything sports fans could grasp with regard to competition and normalcy was a bonus.

When looking at the University of Wyoming, Melissa Mirafuentes and Stephen Buchanan gave Pokes fans something to celebrate. They provided that sense of normal even though what they accomplished was anything but normal. It was extraordinary.

The pair of sophomores wrapped up their winter seasons this past week and did so in impressive fashion. Buchanan clinched All-American status by way of finishing eighth at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, while Mirafuentes garnered similar recognition during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

Buchanan marks the first Wyoming All-American on the mat since Bryce Meredith in 2018. The noteworthy conclusion included an impressive regular season, as well.

Buchanan defeated Noah Hess — the No. 1 wrestler in the nation at 197 pounds — in a home tri-meet that included West Virginia. Buchanan went on to defeat Hess not once more, not twice more but three more times throughout the course of the season.

Buchanan finished runner-up at the Big 12 Championships as the No. 2 seed. His eighth-place finish at nationals occurred after he was seeded eighth.

Buchanan announced himself to the wrestling world. While he and many of his teammates had stellar seasons, Buchanan is the one that’s going to headline this program for the next few years.

And keep in mind, this was a bonus year when speaking to eligibility. Winter sports athletes didn’t not have to exhaust a year of eligibility this past season, so Buchanan will still have three full years left of wrestling in the brown and gold.

Hopefully, those next few years will encompass a few more All-American accolades. Mirafuentes already has a couple to her name.

The Guadalupe, Mexico, native went back-to-back with regard to All-American status. She finished fifth at the championships in platform with a score of 245, as she advanced to the consolation final.

Mirafuentes’ season also entailed her second consecutive conference crown. She was named Mountain West Conference Diver of the Meet after winning platform with a score of 280.5 in finals.

Mirafuentes is established as the premier diver of the conference. She has the hardware to prove it, and three more years of this could compile quite the impressive resume for the Cowgirl.

Many other winter sports athletes enjoyed successful campaigns in this uncertain time. Those successes will go along way in building future success, with the eligibility clock having never turned.


Pokes Notes

The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team lost to 14th-seeded UCLA 69-48 during the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

UW’s wrestling team finished 26th in the final team standings at the NCAA Championships.

Bud Denega, former sports reporter at The Sheridan Press, is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and currently works as assistant sports information director at Northwestern State University. He is pursuing a masters degree in sports administration.

Cowboys Corner columnist

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