Missouri’s fifth-ranked wrestling program wrapped up its dual schedule thrashing the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars on Wednesday for senior night. But the Tigers' season is not over, Coach Brain Smith said. They are looking to March and the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers are a lock to make the tournament, yet success at this weekend's NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals Midwest Regional could improve their seeding, Smith said.
The Tigers will wrestle the No. 25 Maryland Terrapins in the first dual. The No. 17 Purdue Boilermakers and No. 18 Wyoming Cowboys are also wrestling in this weekend's tournament. For the seven seniors, Sunday will be the last time they wrestle at the Hearnes Center.
"I've watched them grow up from young men to mature young men," Smith said. "They have done some special things on and off the mat. I really love the guys. They are an awesome group, I'm gonna miss them."
This senior class has six ranked wrestlers and 62 victories this season and took home the Big 12 Championship last season.
Even though Sunday will be the last time for the seniors, senior 184-pounder Mike Larson said emotions will not be factor.
"I'm sure when it's all said and done, there will be some emotions," Larson said.
Before the senior class can say goodbye, they must first take care of Maryland, a team that has five ranked wrestlers. Larson and senior 174-pounder Todd Porter face top-10 wrestlers in big match-ups, Smith said.
"Takedowns and on my feet and I'm not gonna be beat," Larson said regarding his strategy against No. 7 Jimmy Sheptock.
Larson was not defeated Wednesday, having the highlight of the night with a buzzer-beater pin.
Wednesday was a good night for the other seniors as well. Porter and 141-pounder Nicholas Hucke won by major decision. Brent Haynes, 197 pounds, won by a technical fall after wrestling to a 15-point lead. The team as a whole won nine of the 10 matches, and eight of those wins brought in bonus points.
Despite the 40-point win, Smith saw room for improvement.
"We are making little mistakes out there and we can't do that on Sunday," Smith said. "We are going to have to wrestle a lot better."
Not all seniors and starters wrestled against the Cougars. Smith said he wanted to give some guys rest. Redshirt freshman Boomer Boyd made his debut at the 133-weight class and lost his match, marking the first time in more than 10 years the Cougars scored team points on the Tigers.
The Tigers wrestle the Terrapins starting at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Hearnes Center. If the Tigers win, they will advance to the Finals next weekend in St. Paul, Minn., at the University of Minnesota.