Wrestling: No. 10 Tigers breeze past No. 21 Central Michigan, Wyoming

Wrestling: No. 10 Tigers breeze past No. 21 Central Michigan, Wyoming

Coming into Friday, then-No. 10 Missouri’s head coach Brian Smith sat just two wins shy of 300 for his Missouri career. With two duals scheduled, Smith had a chance to reach that milestone.

Wyoming and then-No. 21 Central Michigan made the trip to Columbia, with the dual against the latter representing an important chance to get a strong start to MAC competition. When the Tigers won both, Smith walked out of Hearnes Center with wins 299 and 300.

Missouri wrestling began the afternoon by taking on Central Michigan. Last season, Missouri won the dual between the two teams by a score of 25-13. The Tigers came into the afternoon riding a seven-dual winning streak against Central Michigan, leading the all-time series between the two schools 8-4-1.

The dual started well for the Mount Pleasant-based CMU. In the 125-pound matchup, No. 18 Connor Brown faced No. 3 Drew Hildebrandt, and the ranked matchup came down to the wire. The match finished 5-5 in regulation, bringing it to sudden death. Hildebrandt would get the job done quickly, taking down Brown to earn a 7-5 win for Central Michigan.

After that, it was almost all Missouri. The Tigers would go on to win eight of the final nine matchups, including three wins against ranked opponents.

Notably, freshman Keegan O’Toole continued his impressive start to his college career, as he defeated Alex Cramer 22-5 on a technical fall decision. Redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Kent continued his undefeated start to the season, dominating Ben Cushman and defeating him by fall.

Freshman Rocky Elam made his Missouri debut against Central Michigan’s No. 26 Landon Pelham. In an impressive debut against a ranked opponent, Elam won by a score of 7-3.

The only other defeat in the dual for the Tigers came in the heavyweight matchup between No. 7 Zach Elam, Rocky’s brother, and No. 4 Matt Stencel. In a defensive meeting between the two top-10 wrestlers that went all three periods, CMU’s Stencel snuck the victory by a score of 3-1.

Ultimately, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Tigers went on to win their first MAC dual by a score of 30-6.

That win meant that Missouri has matched last season’s total number of duals won against ranked opponents. The Tigers amassed a 1-6 record against teams ranked in the top 25 before the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the Central Michigan-Wyoming dual, the Tigers faced off against the Cowboys, with Smith only needing one win to hit 300.

Last season, Missouri defeated Wyoming by a score of 22-10. The Tigers came into the dual leading the all-time series between the two schools, 5-2.

Again kicking off the dual was the Tigers’ 125 starter Brown, against the Cowboys’ Brendon Garcia. Brown fared well against the unranked Garcia, fighting his way to a strong 8-3 win over his opponent, which would typically lead to a 3-0 lead.

However, an exchange of words after the play docked Missouri a team point, meaning the Tigers would only lead 2-0 after the first match.

The Tigers had several wrestlers continue their solid form from previous duals, as well.

No. 3 Mauller continued his winning ways with another ranked win, as he downed No. 31 Jaron Jensen 10-3 after the three periods had passed.

O’Toole continued his perfect start to his college career, as he got another win against a ranked opponent, he topped No. 32 Cole Moody 12-6 after some big takedowns and escapes.

No. 20 Kent pulled out a narrow 6-4 win over No. 19 Tate Samuelson to continue his unbeaten run. There was a lot of noise that accompanied this one, as the crowd and Missouri bench got into the proceedings in what was a hotly contested matchup between two top-20 wrestlers.

Elam went 2-0 against two ranked opponents in his first two matches of his college career, as he defeated No. 14 Stephen Buchanan by injury.

Buchanan was forced off due to concussion protocol, while Elam had a bandage wrapped around his head. Elam led 3-2 in the third period at the time Buchanan was forced off.

At the end of the night, the Tigers bested the Cowboys by a score of 29-3. With the win, Tigers’ coach Smith reached the 300-win milestone.

“When people say ‘Coach Smith has 300 wins,’ it’s not,” Smith said in a press release. “It takes a great organization to do something like this. There are so many great people that have helped me. From assistant coaches to director of operations, to strength coaches. I’ve been really blessed.”

The Tigers are now ranked No. 9 in the country and are back in action Sunday in Ames, Iowa against No. 10 Iowa State and No. 20 Northern Iowa. No. 11 Arizona State pulled out of the quadrangular due to COVID-19 developments within their program.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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