Wyoming’s fifth-year senior, Brian Andrews, has proven himself to be a competitor that should not be taken lightly at the Division 1 level. And if you’re a wrestling fan gearing up for the upcoming season, then this heavyweight definitely needs to be on your list of guys to watch.
In his time at heavyweight, he has made two Big 12 Finals appearances, being crowned champion in 2020, as well as three trips to the big dance. The Grapevine, Texas native won three state titles at the 5A classification for Grapevine High School, was a three-time NHSCA All-American and posted an 8th place finish at Fargo in 2016 in freestyle. After interviewing Brian Andrews, I can tell you that he needs to be on your radar right now.
Career Before Becoming a Poke
Before he decided to become a Cowboy and call Laramie, Wyoming home, Andrews started his college career out at the JUCO level, wrestling for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. In his one year in Miami, Oklahoma, he was able to secure a third-place finish at the NJCAA Championships.
His original plan coming out of high school was to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and wrestle for Oklahoma State. “John Smith told me, ‘Go to NEO for a year and then I’ll take care of you.’ So, after JUCO nationals, Oklahoma State never contacted me or texted me back or anything like that.”
Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys
After his initial aspiration of taking his talents to Stillwater didn’t come to fruition, Andrews knew he wanted to compete at the D1 level and began to look elsewhere.
Schools such as Oklahoma, Pitt, Old Dominion and various D2 schools looked to take in the Texas boy, but he eventually settled on becoming a Wyoming Cowboy. “They wanted me from the get-go.”, said Andrews, “They were recruiting me out of high school too and I went on a recruiting trip there and fell in love.”
The Pokes are led by Mark Branch, a four-time NCAA finalist and two-time champion for Oklahoma State, whose freshman title run is still considered one of the greatest Cinderella stories in college wrestling history. Branch posted an 8-9 record heading into the 1994 national tournament and ended up making his way to the finals where he defeated Laszlo Molnar of Cal State-Fullerton for the 167lb title.
Along with Branch, Wyoming’s coaching staff includes Lead Assistant Coach, Teyon Ware, a three-time NCAA finalist, two-time champion at 14l lbs for Oklahoma, 2011 Pan-Am Games bronze medalist, and former US World Championship and World Cup team member. In addition, they have Assistant coach, McCade Ford, a two-time NJCAA All-American and Volunteer Assistant Coach, Branson Ashworth who was a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Pokes.
Toughness of the Wyoming Room
Being in a conference as competitive as the Big 12, Andrews and the Cowboys have a lot to prove. “I would probably say my first thought is that it’s tough,” Andrews said when asked about training in the Wyoming room.
“They know I can be really good so they’re pretty tough on me. You know, I’m not the fastest guy in the room or anything, so they try to push me.” Andrews also explained how grateful he was to have the opportunity to have a coaching staff who is so invested in him and wants to see him succeed at the highest level possible, accrediting much of his success to Teyon Ware and Branson Ashworth.
Coming from a state like Texas, where wrestling isn’t as prevalent as it is up north, Andrews didn’t have as much of an opportunity to excel in high school as other wrestlers may have had.
Since arriving to college in Wyoming, the wrestling world has seen Andrews really come into his own and put his name into the conversation of heavyweights to watch. Andrews claims this is a result of his training partners: specifically, a two-time NCAA qualifier and grad assistant for the Pokes, Tanner Harms.
Evolution of Heavyweight
In the past, heavyweight was the weight class that people would get up and leave the match because the matchups typically were not as exciting to watch as the light or middle weights. But as of recently, a lot has changed at heavyweight.
We have seen the wrestlers at this weight transform from slow-moving behemoths to slick, athletic monsters. This new era of heavyweight was pioneered by the likes of Kyle Snyder, Kyven Gadson, Anthony Cassar, Ty Walz, Gable Steveson and many others. Brian Andrews is no exception to this classification of heavyweight and expects to be in their midsts one day soon.
When he wrestles, he moves well on his feet and can move just about anyone with his heavy hand fighting influenced style. When he puts his hands on his opponents, you can tell they feel every bit of it.
Although he doesn’t take the most shots in the world, when he does he’s crisp and has a very high finishing rate. Specifically, Andrews has an impressive left-side high crotch that is very difficult for opponents to defend. That exact takedown won him the 2020 Big 12 title against Gannon Gremmel of Iowa State. You can also watch him take the shot in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Championships against Quinn Miller of Virginia. He hit the shot twice and Miller had no answer.
Accolades as a Cowboy
In his career at Wyoming, Andrews has won the 2019 Journeyman Open, placed 7th at the 2018 Cliff Keen Invitational and 8th in 2019, placed 4th at the 2019 Big 12 Championships, 1st in 2020 and 2nd in 2021. On top of that, he has qualified for the NCAA tournament three times being named an Honorable Mention All-American by the NWCA. He also has wins over Gannon Gemmel and Tate Orndorff, both of which are All-Americans. In addition, he has had competitive bouts with Cohlton Schultz, Amarveer Dhesi, Derek White, Zach Elam and Tanner Hall.
Turning the Corner for the Upcoming Season
Brian Andrews has proven that he can scrap with the best guys at heavyweight and has even prevailed against the best of them. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to get the job done when it matters yet.
For his last year of eligibility, Andrews is confident he is taking steps in the right direction to break past that wall. “I’ve been close. I want to lose a little bit more weight this year. I was about 15-20 pounds bigger than I was the year before and maybe I was a little bit slower. And I want to work on my shape.” He feels that being at such a high elevation in Wyoming will help with his cardio, which will allow him to outlast the rest of his competition.
It’s Anyone’s Game
With rumors lingering of the departure of reigning NCAA and Olympic champion, Gable Steveson and continual evolution of the athletes at the weight, heavyweight is shaking up to be one of the widest-open and most-exciting weight classes to watch this season.
Brian Andrews has shown the wrestling community that he is one of the most underrated guys at the weight and is arguably one of the biggest sleepers. He is one of the most dangerous guys in the country and should be on every fan and competitor’s radar for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.