Freshmen show out as No. 6 Missouri defeat Ohio, Northern Illinois

With the Tigers improving to 9-0, the team’s freshmen are improving quickly.

Coming into the Saturday duals against MAC rivals Ohio and Northern Illinois, No. 6 Missouri sat at 7-0 overall and 1-0 in MACtion, so coach Brian Smith gave opportunities to some of the wrestlers on the team that haven’t been featured much, if at all, this season.

In doing so, the Tigers defeated both teams comfortably, 46-0 and 24-12 respectively, with some freshmen putting in strong performances in both duals.

Coming into his match with Ohio’s Brayden Littell, Missouri’s Trey Crawford had only participated in one other dual, namely the opening day matchup with North Dakota State. Crawford lost that match against Kellyn March, 7-4.

With the Tigers leading 3-0 before his match, Crawford wasted no time in getting his first win, putting in a dominant performance against Littel. At 1:47 in the first period, Crawford pinned both of Littel’s shoulders down on the mat, capping off a fast and decisive performance that left the home fans standing.

Four matches later, with a national profile and an undefeated record, fellow true freshman No. 12 Keegan O’Toole looked to continue his excellent start to his college career.

After posting two takedowns in the first period, the true freshman put up a dominant second, pinning Ohio’s Sean O’Dwyer at 3:58. That marked his third pin of the season, on top of two other technical falls.

Freshmen Colton Hawks and No. 14 Rocky Elam won their matches, too.

“It felt good,” Elam said in a press release. “As a team, we had a dominant performance today against Ohio. Everyone looked good and felt fresh. Personally, I really wanted to go out there today and score points in the first period.”

The subsequent dual against Northern Illinois was a tougher test for the Tigers.

Coming in with a 3-0 team lead, Crawford faced Bryce West.

Crawford fared well in the beginning, earning a pair of takedowns and an escape. However, just seconds before he was able to claim victory and go 2-0 on the day, West turned the tables.

Crawford was pinned, mere seconds before time expired, ending what would have been a match to extend the Tigers’ lead. Instead, they trailed 6-3.

Later on, both of Missouri’s freshmen starters, O’Toole and Elam, won their matches easily. Elam capped off his night with a second pin.

“They both felt pretty good,” O’Toole said in a press release. “The first one against Ohio went really well and I was moving my feet. I was able to attack well and picked up the fall. In the finale versus Northern Illinois, I thought I wrestled decent against a tougher kid. I need to find more ways to get to my attacks. They were really trying to lock us all down.”

In his second dual match for the Tigers, Hawks was a heavy underdog against No. 10 Brit Wilson.

Hawks put in a strong performance, earning a massive takedown at the end of the first period to give him a 3-2 lead going into the second. Wilson battled back, with the pair tied 4-4 going down to the wire.

With support coming from the bench and crowd, Hawks was narrowly defeated due to riding time, with Wilson narrowly avoiding a massive upset with a 5-4 win.

Over the course of the two duals, Missouri’s freshmen tallied a 6-2 record. While they were defeated against Northern Illinois, Crawford and Hawks proved themselves capable of competing for the Tigers, providing vital strength in depth.

With the two wins, Missouri improved to 9-0 on the season overall, with a 3-0 MAC record. The Tigers’ next duals are Sunday, as they travel to Kent, Ohio to take on MAC rivals Rider and Kent State.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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