Darren Hellwege, sports commentator
Sunday morning, while some of us will be on the way to Joplin for the men’s basketball game exhibition, the Tiger wrestling team will have their annual black and gold ranking matches starting at 9 a.m. (send God an I.O.U. and play hooky if you’re a church person.)
I want to call special attention to the wrestlers. Nobody’s done more with less than Brian Smith, who was brought in to be the last coach of a program the school intended to shut down. Smith led the program to so much success so quickly (national champions, consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally, and a strong fan base) that Mizzou decided to keep wrestling alive.
I deeply loath the Mixed Martial Arts crapola that is, sadly, about the only way college wrestlers can earn a living in sports once they graduate. There is no NFL or NBA awaiting the top wrestlers, they’re about competition, and about the black and gold of Missouri.
The program could be on thin ice again. With the expected move to the SEC, Missouri will leave a conference with four wrestling programs (including Oklahoma State, which has more national championships than any team in any sport) and will join a conference with…not a single wrestling team. No school in the SEC has varsity wrestling.
This could mean an alliance with other schools in a similar situation, or maybe even a strange grouping with the Big 12 for this one sport, unlikely as that seems. But one way or the other, it would be an awful, awful shame for this program to die off after all Brian Smith’s done. And the best way for the powers that be to know that wrestling belongs on this campus is with large, enthusiastic crowds.
The Tiger wrestling team will start their regular season hosting Purdue on Nov. 13 at Hearnes Center. If you call yourself a Tiger fan, you should plan to be there.
I’d like to remind all Tigers fans of something that bears repeating from time to time. Yes, the Tigers have a very important football game Saturday. But it is far from the only Tiger team that’s playing.
The Tiger soccer team, which won back-to-back conference championships recently, plays Iowa State Friday evening at Walton Stadium. The red-hot volleyball team plays what might be their final match in a very heated rivalry, hosting Oklahoma and their excessively outspoken coach Santiago Restrepo Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
You’ll get your first look at some exciting new players on the Tiger women’s basketball team Tuesday night, as Mizzou hosts Truman State, one night before the Tiger men host Truman.