2023-24 Missouri Wrestling

Missouri Wrestling Gearing Up For Showdown With Virginia Tech

Missouri Wrestling Gearing Up For Showdown With Virginia Tech

Missouri wrestling has been dominant in five duals this season, but bigger challenges await the Tigers beginning with Tuesday's dual against Virginia Tech.

Dec 29, 2023 by Matthew Smith
Missouri Wrestling Gearing Up For Showdown With Virginia Tech

Missouri has come out of the gates hot this season with five dual victories, highlighted by 29 bonus-point victories and 176 team points — all of the while waiting to put its full lineup together. 

As is, the Tigers have averaged 35.2 points per dual and they’ve given up just 6.6 after a 29-6 victory against Illinois in St. Louis. 

“We're wrestling pretty consistently,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said.  “I know in every dual we're getting bonus points and I know the dual meets are going to get tougher, but I do see that we can keep scoring bonus (points) in every dual, so that's important.

“I don't think we've lost more than two matches in a dual meet, so I would like to get that shut out a couple times instead of losing some overtime matches but I'm pleased. But I do know we have to get better. Illinois exposed us to a couple things, just from their handfighting ability, things that we were working on recently and just getting better at it. So as the season goes, we'll get better and better.” 

Bigger challenges are on the horizon during the second half of the season beginning Tuesday when Virginia Tech comes to Columbia for a Top 10 showdown. The Hokies have won three straight in the series. 

“They always come in with a loaded lineup,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “It'll be a good dual.”

Headline Bout 

The headline match for Tuesday’s dual could be at 157, where ninth-ranked Missouri senior Brock Mauller is set to square off with #7 Bryce Andonian in a battle of All-Americans who have combined for five NCAA podium finishes. 

Mauller has been off to a terrific start this season, leading the Tigers in takedowns (34), match points (137) and technical falls (five) while posting a 9-0 record. 

“He's finally believing in what we've all known he can do,” Missouri assistant Dom Bradley said. “What he does in practice is finally coming out there on the mat.” 

Said Smith: “He’s always a beast on top, but now he's getting tilts. He's comfortable on his feet and getting leg attacks every period. Brock is going to run into tougher competition here soon and he is going to be ready for it. He's definitely elevated his game but can do better. He's working on it and is putting the time in.”

The schedule is getting more challenging in the weeks ahead for Mauller, who could also run into #6 Daniel Cardenas of Stanford and #16 Meyer Shapiro of Cornell in January. 

Stacking Up Against VT 

Aside from 157, Tuesday night’s dual could feature a handful of head-to-head battles between ranked wrestlers. 

At 125, undefeated Noah Surtin, who’s been a catalyst for the Tigers during his 9-0 start this season, could collide with #11 Cooper Flynn. 

At 149, #20 Logan Gioffre could face second-ranked Caleb Henson of Virginia Tech. 

The dual could conclude with three straight bouts between ranked wrestlers at 184, 197 and heavyweight. 

Freshman Clayton Whiting is 8-1 and ranked ninth in his first season as a starter for the Tigers. Virginia Tech could counter with #17 Sam Fisher. 

Sixth-ranked Rocky Elam is 6-0 since returning to the Mizzou lineup. He could face #21 Andy Smith or freshman Sonny Sasso. 

At heavyweight, #6 Zach Elam could clash with #20 Hunter Catka. 

“They have a really tough kid there at 184. So for Whiting, it'll be another big matchup,” Smith said. “At 197, they have wrestled two guys, so I don't know who we will get but we are preparing for both. Each one wrestles a little differently. Sasso just brings a little more funkiness to the match.”

Where To Deploy O’Toole

Will the Tigers play it straight up at 165 or shuffle their lineup like they did against Illinois? Against the Illini, Mizzou moved two-time NCAA champ Keegan O’Toole up to 174 to fill in for injured All-American Peyton Mocco. O’Toole scored an 11-7 win against #3 Edmond Ruth. An O’Toole move up to 174 against the Hokies could set the stage for a showdown with second-ranked Mekhi Lewis, a 2019 NCAA champion. 

“We'll look at it,” Smith said. “(It depends on) how we match up with Virginia Tech. If he wants to wrestle Mehki (Lewis), I think it would be a fun match-up. So we'll decide that here in the next couple days.”