Last year, the Missouri wrestling team shocked fans when it took home the Big 12 Tournament championship. On Sunday, the Tigers will look to win their conference tournament again but as members of the Mid-American Conference.
This tournament not only decides which team wins the MAC this year but also who qualifies for the NCAA tournament. Thirty wrestlers from the MAC will qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Each weight class is allocated a certain number of wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The Tigers are looking to qualify all 10 of their wrestlers for the second consecutive year.
“Our goal is to get 10 people to the national tournament,” coach Brian Smith said. “We need everyone to wrestle their best this weekend. If they are wrestling their best, we should do pretty well.”
In each weight class, all of the wrestlers are seeded by the coaches one through eight. Missouri has the most No. 1 seeds, with a total of six.
The Tigers have not wrestled all of their conference opponents this season, but the team has seen film on a lot of its opponents.
“There’s so much film nowadays with Flowrestling.org and YouTube,” senior 197-pounder Brent Haynes said. “People put up so many videos now that even though you don’t wrestle someone, you can watch three or four matches on them and look at their tendencies.”
Senior 125-pounder Alan Waters will come out for the first time Sunday as the No. 1 wrestler in his weight class. He grabbed the top spot after defeating Iowa’s Matt McDonough at the NWCA National Duals, but he stressed the importance of the rankings at the end of the season rather than the rankings now.
“It feels good to finally be on top,” he said. “But the rankings don’t mean anything until they show at the end of the season after Nationals.”
Waters and Central Michigan’s Christian Cullinan are the only 125-pounders ranked who are competing on Sunday. Even though the competition may not be as tough, Waters said he can’t overlook this tournament.
“There are some tough kids out there from our conference that are not just guys I should expect to be easy,” Waters said. “I need to go out there and act like everybody’s a top opponent and not make any mistakes just like I’ve been doing the whole entire season.”
Even though the Tigers have been ranked in the top 10 all season, Smith believes his team has continued to improve.
“They’re trusting in what the coaches are telling them to do,” Smith said. “They’re doing things right and they’re showing improvement. They just need to keep doing that.”
Many members of the team, including Smith, have focused on the team’s continuity.
“They just need to continue wrestling the way they are,” Smith said. “We’re doing a lot of things right. You look over the season and they’ve been successful everywhere they’ve been.”