No. 10 Missouri had plenty to prove to the fans who braved the bitter cold to watch the wrestling team in action Friday night against Buffalo.
Competing in conjunction with the gymnastics squad at the eighth annual “Beauty and the Beast” event, the Tigers shut out the Bulls 41-0, their largest margin of victory all season.
While the wrestlers faced Buffalo, the Missouri gymnasts and Southeastern Missouri State put on a show for the 3,053 fans in attendance at the Hearnes Center. The ladies competed on the bars, vault, balance beam and floor routines. By the end of the four rotations, the Tigers emerged as the winner. Junior Rachel Updike earned victories in all four events, and she took home the all-around title as well.
For the wrestling team, Friday’s match was more than another Mid-American Conference dual. It was also about getting to know the 2014 Tigers, many of whom are freshmen. Coach Brian Smith arranged for quite the introduction. From start to finish, the Tigers dominated. Of the 10 matches, only two were won by decision; the other eight were won by eight points or more, or by a pin.
“I’m pleased with that,” Smith said. “That’s what we have been working with every day. We got to get bonus points. We haven’t gotten a lot of bonus points. I hope we get on a roll here and they start believing what we are teaching because they are maturing.”
Freshman Barlow McGhee kicked things off at 125 with an 11-5 win over Buffalo’s Max Soria. Smith said he put some pressure on McGhee in practice to start aggressively. McGhee listened and recorded two takedowns in the first minute. He wouldn’t stop, notching another takedown before the first period expired.
Then, at 141, redshirt freshman Lavion Mayes brought the crowd and Smith to their feet when he put Buffalo’s Nick Flannery on his back for the pin in the third period.
Not wanting to be outdone, junior 149-pounder and top-ranked Drake Houdashelt did what he does best: win big. Fighting to the last whistle, Houdashelt proved why he was No.1 in the country. He lead the team in bonus point victories and notched a win by major decision as he toppled Ryan Todora, 18-5.
The momentum continued to swing toward Missouri as freshman 157-pounder Joey Lavallee came out swinging early in the second period and pinned Wally Maziarz.
Senior 165-pounder Jordan Gagliano, junior 174-pounder Mikey England and freshman 197-pounder J’den Cox dominated as well, each winning by major decision.
To wrap up the dual and finish the shutout, junior heavyweight Devin Mellon dominated on the mat, winning 16-3.
As the Tigers dominated each opponent, they fed off each other for momentum.
“It’s momentum, especially when you get a pin because pins don’t really happen at the college level,” Gagliano said. “You kind of get on a roll. You are psyched up. The other team starts to drop and drop. Honestly, look at the scoreboard and it was completely one-sided.”
The Tigers return to the mat at 1 p.m. Saturday to face Eastern Michigan.