ROCK SPRINGS – Every cowboy needs a horse.
On Tuesday, the University of Wyoming Cowboys got theirs when Western Wyoming Community College sophomore Tucker Tomlinson traded his Mustang red for Cowboy gold by signing his national letter of intent to continue his wrestling career next year in Laramie.
“I’m just super excited. I’m glad I got the chance to come here to Western and learn from coach Art (Castillo) and all the other coaches to become, not only a better wrestler or athlete, but a better person,” Tomlinson said.
When the 197-pound wrestler for the Mustangs made his way to Rock Springs, Wyoming, from Vernal, Utah, he weighed about 40 pounds lighter, according to head coach Castillo.
Tomlinson said he didn’t know much about colleges, in general. But after meeting with Castillo, he knew Western Wyoming gave him the best opportunity to grow as a person and an athlete.
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t really know anything about college because my parents didn’t go, so I was just playing the recruiting process to see what would happen,” he said.
“Honestly, I had never heard of Western Wyoming even though I lived only two hours away. I didn’t even know what a two-year school was. Then, coach Art called me, and I just thought I’d go check it out because it’s not too far. I came up here and I loved it.
“Coach Art has helped me from pretty much the ground up. I felt like as soon as I got here, I got a reset button. He taught us how to work hard and believe in our team and ourselves. Work hard on the mat and in the classroom. He really helped a lot.”
Castillo said it has been fantastic watching Tomlinson grow, not only physically, but as a person and a leader.
“When I recruited him, he was a 160-pounder. He was long and lean and skinny. I don’t think he would be described as that now. It kind of shows his progression and dedication to the weight room and the program in general. It’s really benefitted him. We knew he had a ton of talent. But now it’s proven. The Division I coaches are seeing that and now he’s going to be a Division I athlete,” Castillo said.
As of Feb. 7, Tomlinson is ranked No. 3 in the nation among wrestlers in the 197-pound weight class, but he’s not one to boast about his accomplishments.
“I like it, but at the same time, I don’t mind being an underdog and flying under the radar a little bit,” he said. “I feel like it has helped me try to be a better person and a better athlete, always pushing myself as hard as I can and compete.”
Over the last two years, Tomlinson has been voted team captain by his teammates.
“That says a lot about his character. Although he isn’t a man of many words, his actions and leadership is done on the mat. I think his friendship with these guys means a lot. His dedication to becoming a better student, the others see that and motivates them to do better,” Castillo said.
Despite his success on the mat, one of Tomlinson’s favorite and most memorable moments from being at Western Wyoming is the community service he has done.
“That’s one of my favorite things to do. Even before I came, I always liked helping people that need help. I just feel like it was very succeeding to see them smile or just give a sigh of relief. I’ve always liked those,” he said. “Sometimes, they suck, though. Like moving a piano. That’s always a good time.”
Castillo said Tomlinson is consistently one of the first to volunteer when asked to do something in the community.
“He’s always eager to help. He always has a great attitude. He’s not afraid of work. He’ll work hard. He’s friendly. I think that it’s helped him grow as an individual, serving others and donating his time,” Castillo said.
Tomlinson began wrestling when he was about 3 or 4 years old. He believes his biggest growth as a wrestler over the years has been self-confidence.
“In high school, I wasn’t as confident as I should’ve been. But now, I believe in myself from the grueling practices coach Art puts us through,” he said.
“My parents have been super supportive ever since I started wrestling by taking me all over the country to help me get to where I am today. I’m thankful for them.”
Ever since Tomlinson arrived at Western Wyoming, he always thought about going to the University of Wyoming.
“I always heard of the Wyoming Cowboys and ever since I came here, I always thought it would be cool to go there and now I’m getting the chance to and it’s pretty awesome,” said Tomlinson, who is thinking about studying criminal justice.
For Castillo, though, he wants to see Tomlinson be the best version of himself.
“I really think that Wyoming is a great place for him. I think he could fit in well. But ultimately, I want to see him get a degree and do some great things life,” Castillo said.