Dorian Henderson, left, looks away after pinning his opponent, Purdue's Drake Stein, in the 174 pound match. Mizzou won the meet over Purdue 21-15. (Photos by Karen Mitchell)
As you’ve seen in my weekly football prediction columns, I’m not always the best prognosticator in sports history. That a team currently sitting at 8-2 was my pick to finish ninth in the Big 12 is a good sign that I’m not the next incarnation of Jimmy the Greek.
Darren Hellwege, sports commentator
But sometimes, I get one right. The moment that defined Sunday’s opening day victory for the Missouri wrestling team almost happened so fast you might have missed it, had someone not said, “Watch this.” That was me.
The reporter working for me covering MU wrestling this year for KBIA radio is a freshman. He knows wrestling very well, but being new to Mizzou I tried to tell him a little about a couple of the guys on the team. When we got to 174 pounds, I nudged him.
“Watch this one, Dorian Henderson. This guy’s a fearsome mofo.” Since my mom might be reading, let it be known that I really said that, “mofo”, and not what it stands for. I never swear, at least not if my mom might be reading.
It’s a pity Henderson’s opponent, Purdue’s Drake Stein, didn’t overhear me. Then again, it might not have helped. Eighteen seconds later, Stein was flat on his back, getting a look at the light in the ceiling of the Hearnes Center as Henderson pinned him lightning quick, a key victory in the Tigers’ 21-15 win over the Boilermakers.
Members of the Missouri wrestling team circle the mat as the team is introduced before the dual match with the Purdue Boilermakers Sunday.
“He should be doing that every night,” Tiger coach Brian Smith said afterwards, noting in particular that the “confidence” of the senior would be a big boost for the team.
“I’m pleased with a lot of things, we were wrestling with a lot of energy,” Smith added.
And confidence wasn’t something we saw lacking from Henderson Sunday. The guy who’s appeared at the NCAA championships for three seasons has no intention of merely showing up this year, watching from the sidelines when that gold medal is awarded at the NCAA championships in St. Louis next year. “I’m not content with that. I want to be an All-American. That’s what I came here for. I gotta get on that podium,” Henderson said.
Purdue's Jake Fleckenstein, left, and Missouri's Brandon Wiest maneuver for a good position during their 141 pound match. Wiest won by decision, 3-2.
This whole team may take on that Henderson swagger. They have some things to prove this year. It was clear in talking with the Smith and some Tiger wrestlers that there are some things they’re tired of talking about.
The move to the SEC. What happens when Mizzou goes to the SEC? Do they know nobody wrestles in the SEC? SEC, SEC, over and over and over, the SEC.
And then there’s Dom Bradley. The Tiger heavyweight is taking the 2011-2012 season off with a goal of wrestling in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. With a young team, with Dom Bradley on the sidelines, with a great recruiting class coming in, this Tiger team has possibly heard “wow, you’re going to be great…next year” maybe a few too many times.
The official signals two points for a reversal for Missouri's Brent Haynes as he controls Purdue's A.J. Kissel. Kissel won by decision, 7-2 but Missouri won the match 21-15.
While there’s a ton of respect and love for Dom Bradley among his Tiger teammates, this bunch has no intention of waiting until next year. Kyle Bradley (no relation to Dom) proclaimed, “We’ve got a great team now, we’re going to be top three, with or without Dom.”
And one sign of the high goals this team has for itself came from Kyle Bradley’s less than glowing report on the Tigers’ win. Even though they beat Purdue for the first time after losing 18-15 and 19-15 in the previous two seasons, just winning isn’t good enough.
“There weren’t the bonus points we’d like,” Kyle Bradley said. “Our plan is to dominate. No more questions about where we’re going to move, we’re just gonna go win. And we need back points and pins.”
If their first dual meet of the year is any indication, when it comes to the pins, there’s at least one guy on this year’s team ready to go out and get those pins. Henderson’s a senior, so he doesn’t care to wait until next year. Get ready, Big 12. The rest of the wrestling nation should look out, too. Henderson’s on his way.
And he’s a fearsome mofo.