2023-24 Missouri Wrestling

No Panic For Missouri Wrestling After Rare Back-To-Back Dual Defeats

No Panic For Missouri Wrestling After Rare Back-To-Back Dual Defeats

After losing two straight duals for the first time in nearly four years, the Missouri wrestling team is examining how the Tigers have come up short.

Feb 8, 2024 by Matthew Smith
No Panic For Missouri Wrestling After Rare Back-To-Back Dual Defeats

Two straight dual defeats are a rare occurrence for Missouri wrestling, not a reason for coach Brian Smith to reach for the panic button. 

After an 8-0 start to the season, Mizzou stumbled on the road at Cornell and then followed it up with another setback Sunday when the Tigers lost 24-10 against Oklahoma State. 

It’s the first time in four years that Smith’s program has lost two straight duals and it’s only the second Mizzou team in the past 12 years that has suffered consecutive losses. 

“I wish we would have wrestled better, but I don't think we're wrestling bad — we're just not finding ways to score,” Smith said. “It's just you gotta find answers in those critical positions, you gotta score points and we talk about it in the room. There may be one time in a match —  quarterfinals, semifinals, Big 12 finals, whatever — you’ve gotta finish, that's what separates everyone. We've just gotta do a better job … of getting our guys to focus on that and finish takedowns.”

The problem for the Tigers during the past two outings: A sudden inability to win their share of close matches. 

In its first eight duals, Mizzou went 11-11 in matches determined by a takedown or less or in overtime. The Tigers have slumped to 2-6 in that category during the last two duals, including 1-4 against the Cowboys.  

“I don't panic in things like this, but we do have to coach,” Smith said. “We gotta get in the room and get them to believe to get those takedowns and to get them to feel it. I'm frustrated (along) with them as a coach. I don't like to lose and disappoint.”

We outlined in the last Tiger Insider how tight the margins are inside the top 10 after runaway #1 Penn State. At the time, Missouri was ranked second in the Flowrestling team tournament rankings. In the two weeks since the Tigers have dropped to #9. 

“(We’ve) just got to understand that this isn't the end goal, winning a dual meet isn't the end goal,” two-time NCAA champion Keegan O’Toole said. “We’ve got Big 12s and Nationals and ultimately, it's just wrestling. We're gonna lose, I mean it's life, you're gonna take losses in your life, you're gonna take some Ws, and it's how we bounce back.”

Said heavyweight Zach Elam: “Get back to the drawing board and figure out how to get better. There's a lot of areas I need to get better at. There's a lot to build off from here and a lot to keep moving forward with. We'll be fine when March comes around.” 

Late Lineup Changes

Missouri encountered some unexpected lineup turbulence Sunday, leaving the Tigers with a hole at one weight and a late change at another. 

Kade Moore’s illness forced the Tigers to forfeit at 133 pounds against Oklahoma State. 

“We found out Kade was sick as a dog that morning,” Smith said. “So we lost our ‘33. So that makes you know going into a match where you're missing a guy is tough.”

The Tigers sent 14 reserves to the Missouri Valley College Open on Saturday, including a pair of lightweight options. Fortunately for Mizzou, Joel Mylin wasn’t among that group and was able to fill in Sunday when 149-pound starter Logan Gioffre was unable to compete after suffering an injury during warmups before the meet. 

“I'm fortunate I left Mylin home and told him to weigh in just in case and he got an opportunity to compete out there,” Smith said

“We're just fortunate we had a backup at 49. So it's just been one of those days, it didn't start very well but there's no excuse for it. It's tough when you lose two starters before you even get to the weigh-in.” 

With Missouri’s hole at 133, Oklahoma State countered by inserting Sam Smith at 133 and moving Daton Fix up to 141, where he notched a 2-1 win against Josh Edmond.  

“I give them a lot of respect that he bumped up,” Smith said. “We didn't have a ‘33 and he bumped up to 41 and you know, beat us. It was a good match, but he beat us. That's a world-class athlete and wrestler that Josh wrestled, even though he's a weight below. We've seen that with Keegan. Most of the best guys can bump up and do special things.”

Up Next

Missouri will get a brief break in action before hitting the road again Feb. 16 for a Big 12 dual at North Dakota State followed by another two days later at South Dakota State.

What does coach Smith want to see before the Tigers return to competition?

“Just getting pinpoint focused and getting to the right positions, having partners fight it, getting those finishes, and not overreacting,” he said. “We're not that far off. I know that. This team is still a really good team. But it's also early February that we can get better and we can turn it around, so we’ve just gotta focus and get people healthy.”