UW Wrestling Hosts "Battle In The Barn" In Centennial; Streamed On UFC Fight Pass

They called it “The Battle in the Barn.” The University of Wyoming Cowboys wrestling team hosted a North Carolina university at more than 8,000 feet elevation in a barn in the Snowy Range livestreamed to hundreds of thousands viewers on UFC Fight Pass.

JN
Jake Nichols

November 24, 20234 min read

A University of Wyoming grappler ties up with an opponent from Campbell University in a barn on the Deerwood Ranch in Centennial, Wyoming, dubbed "The Battle in the Barn."
A University of Wyoming grappler ties up with an opponent from Campbell University in a barn on the Deerwood Ranch in Centennial, Wyoming, dubbed "The Battle in the Barn." (Courtesy Photo)

They called it “The Battle in the Barn.”

University of Wyoming hosted the Fighting Camels of Campbell University from North Carolina last week in a one-of-a-kind wrestling dual that featured a couple of firsts.

First, Barstool Sports dubbed the event “The most American thing you’ll see today,” and rightly so. Pokes wrestlers traded their familiar campus confines at the UniWyo Sports Complex for a grappling session in a rustic barn at the Deerwood Ranch in Centennial, Wyoming.

"This is going to be something the wrestling world hasn't experienced yet, and it's undoubtedly exciting," Wyoming head wrestling coach Mark Branch said heading into the contest.

And if the change of venue doesn’t peg the weirdly Western meter, the match was covered by UFC Fight Pass, the worldwide mixed-martial arts media giant.

“We [had] the opportunity to showcase the Wyoming wrestling brand to hundreds of thousands of martial arts fans,” Branch said. “Campbell actually opened the door for us to host this event, and I am thankful for the relationship we have formed to promote college wrestling.

“UFC Fight Pass is breaking into collegiate wrestling, and to be able to partner with them for this event is special.”

Roll In The Hay

A wrestling mat doesn’t always lend itself to many Kodak moments, but The Battle in the Barn on Nov. 17 was everything picturesque. NCAA’s coverage on X was simply: “Last night was a movie.”

“Take it all in, folks. You won't see another one like this anywhere,” UFC Fight Pass proclaimed when it went live with the stream.

Deerwood played host for the event at its 4,700-acre wild horse sanctuary tucked in the valley between Sheep Mountain and Medicine Bow Peak at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains. The family owned ranch runs cattle and about 350 head of wild horses.

Wyoming brought the decidedly “cowboy” venue, the Campbell had inroads to UFC and paved the way for the contest to be streamed. The event brought additional exposure to both programs even if the live attendance was limited due to space in the barn.

Tickets were not available to the general public. Only family members of the student athletes were allowed to attend.

  • University of Wyoming wrestlers were ready for action in a nationally live-streamed match at the Deerwood Ranch in Centennial, Wyoming.
    University of Wyoming wrestlers were ready for action in a nationally live-streamed match at the Deerwood Ranch in Centennial, Wyoming. (Courtesy Photo)
  • A Campbell University wrestler feels the elevation in Centennial, Wyoming.
    A Campbell University wrestler feels the elevation in Centennial, Wyoming. (Courtesy Photo)
  • The University of Wyoming lost the Battle in the Barn, but had some strong individual wins.
    The University of Wyoming lost the Battle in the Barn, but had some strong individual wins. (Courtesy Photo)
  • The University of Wyoming wrestling team,
    The University of Wyoming wrestling team, (Courtesy Photo)

Camels Better In A Barn

The young Cowboys wrestling team suffered its first loss this season in the barn 23-12. Wyoming (3-1) did get four victories and every match was close.

“On paper, I think with our youth, we weren’t favored in a ton of matches. But at the same time, we felt good about our guys,” Branch said. “I told the guys, ‘Losing sucks.’ There’s no doubt about that. There was definitely some good and some bad. But there are definitely some positive things to build off of.”

The Fighting Camels improved to 2-1 on the young season. The promising team from Buies Creek, North Carolina, managed to overcome both the environment and elevation of more than 8,000 feet above sea level.

"It was a little bit of a hostile environment. It felt like the crowd was against you the whole time,” said Caleb Hopkins, who won a 4-3 decision over Wyoming’s Ethan Ducca at 185 pounds. “Some of the guys were affected by the elevation, I think.

“In the venue it said it was 8,300 feet elevation, so that was tough to combat. You'd go into the match and you were wrestling hard, and all of a sudden it would just hit you because you're not getting quite enough oxygen.”

Campbell’s true freshman Chris Earnest was named the match’s outstanding wrestler. He agreed about grappling in the mountains where the air is thin.

“The elevation really was a big factor. In the beginning of the match, I kind of felt like I was on the moon, to be honest. It was really hard to breathe. But I came back down to earth and was able to tech him,” Earnest said about his win over the Pokes’ Paolo Salminen at 157 pounds. “The crowd was going purely for Wyoming, but that didn't make much of a difference.”

Wyoming winners included Cole Brooks (141), who rallied for a 9-8 decision over Chris Rivera, and Gabe Willochell (149), who edged the Camels’ Justin Rivera in a 5-4 decision. Both UW wrestlers are undefeated through three matches.

Brett McIntosh (165) and one of the nation’s top wrestlers, sophomore Jore Volk (125) also won for the Cowboys.

Wyoming takes this weekend off before traveling to its first invitational of the season. The Cowboys will participate in the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 1-2.

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Jake Nichols

Features Reporter