Missouri senior wrestler Mark Ellis is the defending national champion and ranked No. 1 in the nation at heavyweight. But he might not be Missouri's starter this season.
Sophomore Dominique Bradley is contesting Ellis for the starting spot on Missouri's lineup, and coach Brian Smith said the two are a good matchup. Bradley is unranked, but that's because two wrestlers from the same school in the same weight class cannot be ranked. Otherwise, Bradley would likely be ranked in the top five in the country.
"It's really even," Smith said. "But right now, it's not a decision. Ellis will be going against Illinois and going out to the All-Star Classic."
In Sunday's annual Black and Gold match, Missouri wrestling fans saw the two heavyweight giants face off against one another. In the previous two Black and Gold matches, Bradley defeated Ellis, but Ellis still won the starting spot. This year Ellis defeated Bradley 2-0.
Neither wrestler scored in the first period of the match. Ellis then chose to go down in the second period and was able to fight for an escape to take a 1-0 lead. Ellis controlled Bradley for the entire third period, gaining an additional point for riding time, to win 2-0.
"I wanted to make sure I was able to ride (Bradley) out," Ellis said. "We're both tough to take down. I've been really concentrating on riding and bottom and top and I want to be the best in the country at those positions because I feel like I can't be taken down so I knew it was going to come down to that."
Although Ellis is considered the dominant force in the country at heavyweight, Bradley has his own set of credentials, something most backups in the country can't say. This past summer, Bradley won the Junior World Championships in freestyle wrestling, a tournament just under par of the Olympics.
"It's helpful," Ellis said, referring to having Bradley as his backup. "It's tough day-to-day for both of us, but the good thing is, he's got a couple years left after this, so he can still be a couple time national champion, and I know he can do it."
Bradley defeated Iowa State's heavyweight David Zabriskie last season in the Midlands tournament. Thus far in his career, Ellis has been unable to defeat Zabriskie, but he will have another shot in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic on Nov. 22, which features the top-ranked wrestlers in each weight class facing off against each other at the beginning of the season.
"That's the match I wanted," Ellis said, referring to the All-Star Classic. "I believe it's set up perfectly for me and I'm excited for it. Both times last season I was in deep on a takedown and I didn't finish it, so I have to finish my takedowns. I just have to go wrestle."