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A New Climb, Same Peak: Central Oklahoma’s Bid for Another Championships

Climbing the mountain top is one thing, staying there is another. And that’s the goal for Central Oklahoma in 2023-24 as the Bronchos take aim at a second straight NCAA Division II national championship.

UCO ended a long title drought last year in running away with its 16th national championship and the Bronchos appear loaded in their quest to repeat.

Five All-Americans — spearheaded by a pair of individual champions — and another national qualifier return from last year’s squad that went 13-1 in duals before capturing 

a third straight regional crown and the program’s first national title since 2007.

But that was last season and the Bronchos aren’t interested in looking back.

“We look at it as we’re in pursuit of winning the national championship this year, not defending anything,” said eighth-year head coach Todd Steidley, who has an 86-12 dual record at UCO. “Our goal is to get better every day and to position ourselves to win the 2024 national championship.

“No one has won it this year and we don’t have anything to defend. We’re moving forward with that mindset and trying to be prepared for March.”

UCO will preview most of its 2023-24 team with Sunday’s 4 p.m. Bronze-Blue intrasquad dual at Hamilton Field House. Returning team members will receive their national championship rings prior to the match.

Leading the Bronchos are national champions Dalton Abney and Shawn Streck, two of the best on any level. Abney will be gunning for his third straight title at 197 pounds, while Streck returns at heavyweight looking to duplicate a season that ended with him being named Division II Wrestler of the Year.

UCO’s other returning All-Americans are 141 Dylan Lucas, 157 Gabe Johnson and 184 Anthony DesVigne, with Lucas and DesVigne set to move up a weight this season. Also back is 125 Studd Morris, a national qualifier who came within one win of earning All-America honors.

There will be new faces at a few weights, but a mixture of returning squad members and newcomers will battle for those spots and Steidley is excited about their potential.

“We’ve got a good mix of guys who have been around a long time and younger guys looking to make their mark,” Steidley said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what some of our younger guys can do. And there’s a lot of changes we can make in the lineup, which is good.”

So all signs point to the Bronchos making another spirited run at the national championship come next March, though plenty of challengers await.

“There’s a lot of good teams in Division II,” Steidley said. “I think it will be a dogfight at the national tournament, but we should be right in the middle of it.”

Here’s a weight-by-weight look at the Bronchos.

125 Pounds:

UCO starts off with a senior veteran in Studd Morris, who really came into his own last season. Morris led the team in wins, going 34-7 with 17 bonus-point victories and capturing the regional title before coming up just short of earning All-America status.

He’s back and determined to finish his career in style, though sophomore Garrett Steidley will push the issue. Steidley went 14-8 while seeing action at 125 and 133 last year and is certainly capable of handling the position.

Both are battling injury issues to start the season, so redshirt freshman Guy Clevenger and a host of rookies will look to fill the void until their return…

Yes, there's even more!
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