Two Missouri wrestlers look to gain by losing pounds

Askren and Henderson are altering their diets for the change.

Senior Max Askren attempts to escape from Nebraska's Craig Brester's grip during a semifinal match last March during the Big 12 Championships in Lincoln, Neb. Askren and teammate sophomore Dorian Henderson are moving down a weight class for this season. Maneater File Photo

Ice cream, pizza and hot wings are treats senior Max Askren and sophomore Dorian Henderson said they would miss this wrestling season.

Askren and Henderson, both NCAA qualifiers last season, are looking to solidify the Missouri upper weights by dropping down a weight class this season.

Both wrestlers feel they are dropping down to their more natural weight classes, and the rankings agree. Askren, who was an All-American at the 197-pound weight class the past two seasons, is ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation at 184 pounds behind only Ohio State's senior Mike Pucillo, who claimed a national championship two seasons ago before losing in the NCAA finals last season.

Coach Brian Smith said it wouldn't be difficult at all to drop down a weight class.

"If you look at Askren when he wrestled against (last season's NCAA finalists, Nebraska's Craig) Brester and (Iowa State's Jake) Varner, he was a lot smaller," Smith said. "It's really more of his natural wrestling weight."

Askren, who said he has to cut back on eating ice cream from once a day to once a week, feels dropping down a weight class will work to his advantage.

"It's more of my natural weight," Askren said. "I always feel better when I cut weight. I'll be more mentally prepared and stronger too."

Last season, two-time All-American and then-senior Raymond Jordan dropped down a weight class to 174 pounds and finished No. 3 at the NCAA Tournament, with his only loss of the tournament to eventual national champion Steve Luke of Michigan.

Both Askren and Henderson said Jordan cut weight the right way, and they plan on cutting the same way that he did.

"I'm just going to diet real good, and I'll miss my fat, greasy food, but I have to give that up," Henderson said. "I love pizza, I love hot wings, I just love everything that's bad for you. But I feel a lot stronger now."

Last season, Henderson qualified for the NCAA Tournament, but didn't finish as an All-American.

"Dorian was a 174-pound wrestler last year, the only reason he was at 184 is because Jordan was at 174," Smith said. "He's going to be stronger and quicker, which is scary because he is already really quick."

Henderson is currently ranked No. 20 in the 174-pound weight class.

"Coach told us not to worry about rankings right now," Henderson said. "It's a new year and new weight class."

Askren and Henderson will both be in action in their new weight classes on Sunday afternoon in the annual Black and Gold match at the Hearnes Center. The key match on Sunday will be between senior Mark Ellis, defending national champion and current No. 1 in the nation, and sophomore Dominique Bradley.

In the previous two Black and Gold matches, Bradley defeated Ellis.

"We'll be tough, with whoever makes it out (of heavyweight)," Askren said. "It just solidifies our upper weight dominance."

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