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Strong alumni group led big UCO fan base at national tournament

Joining the hundreds of Central Oklahoma wrestling fans who streamed into Hartman Arena in Wichita, Kan. last weekend to support the Bronchos in their quest for a second straight NCAA Division II national title was a strong contingent of alumni.

Some of the program’s all-time greats were among the dozens of former wrestlers in attendance, with nearly 40 All-Americans from five decades represented. Four-time national champion Cole Province was there. So were two-time winners Benny Coleman, Keith Cunningham, Shawn Silvis and Heath Gray.

UCO added to its already rich history by capturing its 17th championship, with each of the 16 previous winning teams represented.

Danny Cruse and Jeff Robinett from 1979. Jimmy Filippo and Jeff Gowens from 1989. Cunningham, Todd Drake, Mike Keim and Randy Zellner from 1993. Province, Silvis and Chris Saferite from 2002. Jared Hess and Jason Leavitt from 2007. Nate Keim, Brik Filippo and Alex Kauffman from 2023.

It was an amazing scene as the clearly heavily-invested alumni cheered enthusiastically during the action and had plenty of fun between sessions while catching up with former teammates. It was a family reunion of sorts.

“It was very humbling and honoring to see so many of our past guys there,” said head coach Todd Steidley, himself a two-time All-American (1987-88) for the Bronchos. “I saw some older guys and guys who graduated last year together and to see them commingling and having a great time was just overwhelming.
“It just shows how special the program is. We stress Broncho wrestling family and that’s what it is. People may go 20 years without seeing each other and they pick right back up where they left off. UCO is just special.”

Zellner echoes that sentiment. A three-time All-American with one individual title to his credit, Zellner helped the Bronchos to three straight team titles (1992-93-94) and has been a fixture at home duals…

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