By Matt McFarland
A strange opening weekend the Missouri wresting came to a close Sunday, after both a dual and an open tournament in Virginia. Brian Smith’s Tigers started out their season with a disappointing result,lost to a very talented Virginia Tech Hokies wrestling team 29-10 in a top 20 matchup, a blowout in the world of wrestling. Missouri took a trip to their first tournament of the season Monday, where three Tigers secured tournament championships, those three being No. 2 in the nation. Columbia natives Brock Mauller- who continues his perfect 5-0 start to the season; and No. 10 Jarret Jacques, both rebounded off of a tough OT loss to Virginia Tech’s B.C LaPrade who was ranked number 17 at the 157 pound weight class, with a perfect tournament; and number eight at 174 Connor Flynn, who also raised his record to 5-0 on the season.
Even with the dual loss to the Hokies, there is no panic in Colombia- an early season loss means nothing as the Tigers still are guaranteed at least six wrestlers in the NCAA national tournament come season’s end. Missouri has dominated the MAC for the better part of a decade now, and this season looks no different as the Tigers entered the season with six Top-25 ranked wrestlers, and the No. 8 team nationally.
This team is different- this year talent and inexperience come together with the likes of Mauller, Connor Flynn and Zach Elam show incredible talent and promise, wrestlers like Dack Punke and Alex Butler, who’s holding the spot of 141 while Jaydin Eierman takes an international redshirt year, will more than likely struggle mightily as they continue to develop. With Mauller and Elam however, the Tigers have two sophomore wrestlers who could legitimately contend for a National Championship in their respective weight class, they would Ben “Funk” Askren and the legendary J’Den Cox and Missouri’s national championship winners.
The biggest question mark of the weekend was the absence of Sophomore Zach Elam, who was one win away from being an all-American as a freshman. Rodrigo Diaz wrestled in his place, and his loss to John Borst proved to be a pivotal result in the dual between Tech and the Tigers. Diaz also went 2-2 in the Southeast open on Sunday, when Elam would have almost been a guaranteed weight class championship for the Tigers. Elam’s status has been murky, but whether it be weight or injury issues one thing is clear, the Tigers need their heavyweight if they want to make a statement this season.
The Tigers will wrestle next in a dual against the Illini in a bragging rights matchup. The match will take place at Francis Howell High School in St. Louis- a traditional Missouri High School wrestling powerhouse.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org