Missouri wrestling prepares to face two ranked opponents

Missouri comes home to take on No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oklahoma State.
Senior Nick Marable and the Tigers will go against two ranked conference opponents this weekend. On Saturday, Oklahoma comes to the Hearnes Center, and Oklahoma State visits Sunday. Maneater File Photo

In its first action at home since November, No. 18 Missouri will host No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oklahoma State this weekend. The Sooners will take on the Tigers in the Beauty and the Beast event at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Oklahoma State will visit at 1 p.m. Sunday. Three matches against Oklahoma State will feature two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 for their weight class.

Coming off a 22-16 victory in the Big 12 opener at Nebraska last week, coach Brian Smith plans to use the same lineup he used in Lincoln, Neb., against both this weekend's opponents. This lineup includes freshman Eric Wilson, who is 2-3 since taking over at 125 pounds in January. Wilson is the third different wrestler to start at 125 for Missouri this season.

Every starter in the top half of the Tigers lineup comes into the weekend ranked in the top 15 for their weight class, and an opponent ranked in the top 10 will test all five. This includes defending national champion heavyweight No. 8 Mark Ellis. The senior will face No. 1 senior Jared Rosholt of Oklahoma State.

In preparation for the important duels Saturday and Sunday, Smith modified the practice schedule slightly, giving the wrestlers the day off Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Aside from that, practice for the team has gone as usual.

"We're always training," Smith said. "We have individual drills that have been going on for about a month now. The coaches are working with them on things, trying to get a weakness to become a strength. Other than that, our practices have been fairly similar."

Smith said the change in the practice schedule came about to keep everyone fresh.

"That helped shorten the week and let their bodies rest a little," Smith said. "We should come in fairly fresh for these dual meets. But we need to because they are both great teams."

The wrestlers have followed Smith's lead, treating the weekend ahead as they would any other dual meets.

"I've been training all year to win a national title, and this is just another match to get me prepared," senior Nick Marable said.

No. 6 Marable will face a fellow top 10 opponent this weekend in No. 9 redshirt freshman Alex Meade of Oklahoma State at 165 pounds.

The other match of the weekend that will feature two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their weight class is at 184 pounds, where No. 3 senior Max Askren will face No. 10 junior Clayton Foster of Oklahoma State.

Askren is also treating this weekend as any other duel and said he believes in his teammates’ abilities.

"If they open up and they wrestle how they can, it's going to be good," Askren said. "They've got great stuff, they've got good technique, they've got endurance, just their mind needs to be sharper. For them its to allow their abilities to reveal themselves."

Smith also shares a confidence in the Tigers' abilities.

"The seniors are doing well," Smith said. "For them its just to continue what they're doing. For the younger guys it's just competing the whole seven minutes."

Missouri comes into the weekend on a five-match winning streak, but Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the highest ranked teams that they have faced this season.

"We've had a lot of success with the Oklahoma's the last two years, and these are their two best teams in a while," Smith said.

Oklahoma has two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 and Oklahoma State has four.

"The guys have to feel that energy and go out and wrestle hard and get a win," Smith said. "It's a challenge. But our expectation is to go in and win."

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