While many in Columbia have been enthralled in the success of the Missouri Tiger men’s basketball team, the wrestling team has performed just as remarkably; and unlike Frank Haith’s squad, the Tiger wrestlers will not have to go far from home for the NCAA Tournament, as the Scottrade Center in St. Louis begins hosting the event on Thursday.
The success of the Tigers has been fostered since day one of the season through a schedule that pitted Mizzou against top 25 opponents more times than against ranked opponents. This resulted in immense growth for each of the Tigers’ 10 wrestlers throughout the season, and was displayed last weekend in Columbia when Mizzou shocked powerhouses like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in winning their first ever Big 12 tournament.
And in doing so, the Tigers became the only program in the nation so qualify all 10 wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament, a remarkable feat in its own right. What made that accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that only two of the 10 wrestlers were seeded first in their respective brackets. After Alan Waters (125 pounds) and Mike Larson (184 pounds) avoided being upset and won their flights, upset wins by Drake Houdashelt (157 pounds) and Zach Toal (165 pounds) put belief in the eyes of the Tigers. And thanks to consistent performances from all the other wrestlers (8 of the 10 finished at least second), Mizzou was able to take the title.
This overall success in the wrestling program can be attributed to the tireless work put in by head coach Brian Smith and his staff. In his 13 years in Columbia, there have been 14 wrestlers who have received all-american honors, nine of which have earned multiple honors. So while many Tiger fans will be glued to the performance of the basketball team as they make a push through March Madness, it would be wise to keep a tab on the Tiger wrestlers as well. With as much as they have accomplished, it is only fair that Mizzou nation puts in support to their wrestlers, as there is every possibility for a historic run to be made this weekend in St. Louis.