Wrestling team practices in MU Student Center for second year

An unusual practice location gave fans a chance to see Mizzou wrestling in a different setting.
Dack Punke (right), freshman, wrestles with Barlow McGhee, senior, in a wrestling practice at the Student Center on Thursday Oct 19.

Missouri wrestling ditched its spot in the Hearnes Center on Thursday to practice in the MU Student Center for the second year. More than 30 wrestlers did drills together for approximately an hour while students and Student Center employees watched.

“It’s a sight,” said one employee walking by the mat. Tables were moved for the event, which took place in front of Kate & Emma’s, a campus dining location on the first floor of the Student Center.

The team started with jogging and moved on to forward and backward rolls, cartwheels and stretching. After warmups, the team paired off and practiced different techniques with each other.

The drills intensified as head coach Brian Smith led the team in a series of individual drills: tapping the mat in front of them, sliding on the mats and running in place with quick feet. The practice ended with a cheer, “1, 2, 3, Tiger Style!”

The Tiger Style team motto was recently trademarked, making its use limited to Mizzou and specifically wrestling-related activities.

“Think about that — how many sports have that? How cool is that?” Smith said about the trademark.

A week away from the team’s first match, the annual Black and Gold Meet at the Hearnes Center on Oct. 27, Smith likes the Tigers’ current situation, calling his team “a really solid lineup.”

“This team has been here all summer preparing,” Smith said. “So it’s fun that when we’re starting our first day of practice, I feel like we’re at mid-season, the type of shape and the way we’re drilling and doing things. So it’s definitely a talented team that has prepared itself.”

Redshirt sophomore Jaydin Eierman returns for his third season after taking fifth place at the NCAA Championships in March for the 141-pound weight class.

“He just has a system now, and he knows what he wants to do, and he’s gonna score a lot of points,” Smith said. “I just see a lot of good things coming out of him that he’s beyond where he was at the end of the year last year.”

Eierman also won the 141-pound Mid-Atlantic Conference Championship in March.

“[My] personal goal is just to get better every day in the practice room and to hopefully get to that leap of winning a national title this year for Mizzou,” Eierman said. “That’s been my ultimate goal, and I feel like I’ve made the strides this year to achieve that.”

With the graduation of Olympian J’den Cox, Missouri wrestling’s most decorated alum and current assistant coach, other seniors have stepped into a leadership role.

“It’s kinda weird having guys look up to you. Like a lot of them do, which is crazy,” redshirt senior Barlow McGhee said. “I took the role head on; I didn’t hesitate about it. I mean, I brought ’em right under my wing.”

McGhee won the MAC Championship in his 125-pound weight class in 2016 but struggled in the MAC last season. McGhee finished the season 19-13 and 2-3 in MAC duals.

“I’m going hard, nonstop,” McGhee said. “So I’m going to get my offense going a lot this year, I mean, I’m gonna be a scoring monster. I’m gonna be a machine.”

Smith is known for organizing new ways to promote the wrestling team. He said that he hopes to make practicing in the Student Center an annual tradition.

“A lot of times we’re up in the fourth floor of the Hearnes Center, and people don’t even know the room exists up there,” Smith said.

The team is scheduled to open its regular season outdoors against Illinois at Mizzou Softball Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4. The timing and location will be confirmed after the kickoff time for the Missouri football game against Florida that day is announced.

“I really hope the match on the softball field happens,” Smith said. “... It just brings more attention to the sport. People want to see different things like that.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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