It’s a tale as old as time, going back to 2007. Two teams with two very different styles will share the same mat Friday night at the Hearnes Center in an event known as Beauty and the Beast.
The Missouri gymnastics team will face off against the No. 17 Auburn Tigers in an Southeastern Conference clash, while the No. 5 Missouri wrestling team take on No. 2 Oklahoma State for the first time since the 2012 Big 12 Championship.
Sophomore 149-pounder Drake Houdashelt, recipient of the MAC wrestler of the week award, takes on No. 1 Jordan Oliver of the undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys.
“Its a pretty big duel,” Houdashelt said. “I got a tough kid. I’m excited.”
The Tigers have reason to be excited. Nineteen wrestlers from both teams are ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight class, with four of the 19 ranked No. 1
Houdashelt said he feels good about this match.
These two met last at the Joe Parisi Open in St. Charles, a match Oliver won by a major decision. Houdashelt is no stranger to major decisions as he has tallied nine this season, leading the team.
“I just keep trying to get more points,” Houdashelt said of his major decisions.
Bonus points will be key in this duel. Last year’s Big 12 Championship was decided by a mere four points.
On Friday night, eight matches will be between ranked opponents. Coach Brian Smith stressed the importance of a victory for his team, but also the importance for the individual wrestlers.
“They have some guys ranked really high,” Smith said. “It’s a really good opportunity for us to make a big statement and get some big individual wins.”
Senior 133-pounder Nathan McCormick has faced Oklahoma State’s Jon Morrison twice this season. They now rank No. 6 and No. 4, respectively. So far the two wrestlers have split their matchups this year. McCormick took the first win back in November, but Morrison won in January with a last-second takedown.
McCormick said he was not pleased with the last matchup but is ready for Friday’s match.
“The last match was was extremely frustrating,” McCormick said. “I want to go out there and show them I am a better wrestler.”
The night will conclude with a heavyweight clash when No.1-ranked senior Dom Bradley takes on No. 3 Alan Gelogaev. The two faced off in early January with Bradley winning a close match, 2-1.
The heavyweight said the match was tight with the two having different wrestling styles.
“Our styles kind of clash,” Bradley said. “It will be a physical hand fight, a punch-to-the-face kind of match, but he’s a real good opponent. I am excited to go out there and wrestle.”
Bradley said his team assumes the beast persona, especially his teammates on the promotional posters around campus.
“In the movie Beauty and the Beast, the beast is the ugly guy,” Bradley said. “You know Brett (Haynes) and (Mike) Larson are on that poster, so they’re the ugly guys. The gymnastics girls are the beauties. It’s just a way to get fans to come out and support both programs.”
The Missouri gymnastics team has had a shaky season so far, with a team score average of 193.217 — two full points lower than last season’s average. In their meet Friday against No. 17 Auburn, the Tigers hope to show their full potential.
Head coach Rob Drass said he wanted to see his team's gymnasts hit every one of their 24 routines in the “Beauty and the Beast” event. He said the team’s goal is to maximize its team score and try to be as close to perfect as possible.
“We haven’t been satisfied with the outcomes of the meets so far,” Drass said. “We need a meet with smooth warm-ups.”
He said, in preparation for Friday’s matchup, the team has been focusing more on the balance beam and floor exercise, in which the team fell short in its last meet.
Senior gymnast Sandra Ostad said she knows the team can do better on beam.
“Statistically, we are ranked the lowest on beam, but that’s far from the truth,” she said.
Ostad said the Tigers have a strong beam team and that they just need the chance to show what they can do.
One of the Tigers’ strongest beam competitors is sophomore gymnast Rachel Updike, who has an average score of 9.75 on the event this season. She took first in beam at the Air Force Quad Meet on Jan. 26. She said beam is her favorite event, so she was happy to win the title.
Ostad said the team is proud of its three freshman gymnasts – Miranda Eubank, Blair Elmore and Rachel Henderson – because they have proven their abilities against some of the top-ranked gymnastics teams in the country.
“I don’t think their freshman year happened how they thought it would, but they’ve really risen up and proved themselves,” she said.
The Tigers have team meetings every day, and Updike said Drass told them in this Tuesday’s meeting to “make their own story.”
“(Coach said) most stories have a difficult beginning but end up well. We still have time to make our own story and come out on top,” Updike said.