Mixed bag: Missouri wrestling sends four to quarterfinals, national title looks out of reach

Some wrestlers made headlines, but a team title looks unlikely.

No. 5 Missouri came into the NCAA Wrestling Championships on Friday as one of the favorites. The Tigers had all 10 participants in the MAC Championships qualify for the NCAA tournaments.

Missouri’s title hopes would fade during an up-and-down day one that saw four Missouri wrestlers reach the quarterfinals of their respective classes, while three others lost in the first round.

Freshman Rocky Elam and junior Jarrett Jacques came into their opening-round bouts as heavy favorites but lost their matches.

Elam was the No. 7 seed in the 197 weight class. He faced Oklahoma’s No. 26 Jake Woodley in the opening round. The typically fast and seemingly insurmountable freshman appeared slower than usual, and Woodley took full advantage.

Elam was unable to get his usual foothold on the match. Woodley put up an excellent defensive fight. A takedown and an escape for the Oklahoma representative would prove to be too much for Elam.

Jacques faced Central Michigan’s No. 26 Johnny Lovett in a rematch of their Jan. 8 bout in Columbia, which he won 8-3. Much like Elam, Jacques didn’t get his normal grip on the match.

Lovett came out with a strong defensive game plan and made it difficult for Jacques to get a look at a takedown. With a takedown and an escape, Lovett led 3-2 and wrestled well defensively against the heavily favored Jacques.

That scoreline would hold until the final horn, and Jacques moved to the consolation bracket.

Both Elam and Jacques won their first consolation bracket matches and qualified for Friday’s bouts.

Sophomore Noah Surtin, the No. 18 seed in the 125 class, was defeated by No. 15 Patrick McKee of Minnesota, 15-8. Surtin won his consolation match to qualify for the Friday bouts.

The Tigers had four wrestlers qualify for the quarterfinal of their class. Redshirt junior No. 6 Matt Schmitt, No. 6 redshirt junior Allan Hart, junior No. 3 Brock Mauller and freshman No. 6 Keegan O’Toole all went 2-0 on the day to advance to the final eight.

Mauller came in as one of the favorites to win the national title.

Not known for getting bonus points, Mauller showed that he is capable of doing so by dominating Cleveland State’s No. 30 Marcus Robinson to a 12-1 major decision. He also showed his tactical skill set with a strategic 4-2 victory over No. 14 Michael Blockhus of Minnesota.

However, O’Toole was arguably the most impressive Tiger. The true freshman has wrestled with a swagger all season that makes him appear to be a seasoned veteran, and he continued that trend Thursday.

In his NCAA Championships debut, O’Toole pinned No. 27 Jake Silverstein of Rider at 4:10. He then faced Michigan’s No. 11 Cameron Amine in a tightly contested bout. O’Toole led 3-2 in the final moments of the match and sealed the win with a strong takedown as the clock expired.

“It was my first time here, so I was a little bit nervous,” O’Toole said via the team Twitter account. “Going forward, I need to keep trying to score points. It’s going better for me when I’m scoring points … That’s just my mentality going forward.”

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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