Tiger wrestling travels to Iowa for Big 12 Championship

The Tigers will face a surplus of talent from four different Big 12 schools.

The No. 12 Missouri Tigers wrestling squad heads to Ames, Iowa this weekend to take on Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship at Hilton Coliseum.

The Big 12 Championship is always loaded with storylines, and this year is no different.

The top 50 wrestlers in the Big 12 conference will battle for the 33 qualifying NCAA Championship spots allotted to the conference. Ten of the 50 wrestlers are representing Missouri, and six of those 10 are newcomers to the Big 12 Championship.

Freshman Alan Waters, redshirt freshman Zach Toal and junior Dom Bradley lead the pack of talented Missouri wrestlers.

Toal, having already qualified for the NCAA Championships, has his biggest pressure out of the way, but will still compete in the tournament. At 165 pounds, Toal will square off with some of the best wrestlers in the country, a few of them coming from his own conference.

“The 165 weight class is absolutely stacked,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said.

Toal has a couple of tough challenges ahead of him in the Big 12 Championship. He has to work through Dallas Bailey of Oklahoma State, who he has already beaten twice, and tournament favorite and defending national champion Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska. Toal lost his first match of the season to Burroughs at home by technical fall.

“Jordan makes a lot of people not wrestle well,” Brian Smith said. “The 165 pound weight class is one of the best in the country, and he is at the top of it.”

Missouri faces a lot of tough competition in the four other teams at the Big 12 Championship. No. 3 Oklahoma State might be the toughest of the bunch.

“Dallas (Bailey) has only lost to quality opponents this year,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “Zach is one of those quality opponents, but Dallas competes. He has good demeanor on the mat and can help our team out a lot.”

Oklahoma State is the favorite to win the tournament this year, as they did last year.

“I like the atmosphere in our program right now,” John Smith said. “I give a lot of credit to our two seniors, Clayton Foster and Neil Erisman, they were great leaders for us. I think for that reason you’ll see us at our best on Saturday.”

For Nebraska, another tough competitor, this will be its last Big 12 Championship because they are moving to the Big Ten Conference next season.

“We’re living in the moment right now,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said. “We’re focused on what’s right in front of us, and that’s the Big 12 Championship. We want to leave the conference on a high note.”

Having the top-ranked wrestler, at one of the most difficult weight classes in the country, provides a high level of comfort for the Cornhuskers.

“I’m sure we will face these Big 12 teams again in the future, so our departure isn’t really that big of a deal,” Manning said.

The host of the tournament, Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said the departure would affect the conference.

“I’m happy that we will continue as a four team conference,” Jackson said. “The decision to add teams is a bit higher than me at this point, but I’d like to add teams in the future.”

The tournament begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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