COLUMBIA — Before junior Michael Chandler, Missouri’s 165-pound wrestler, stepped on the mat, the ref came to the bench to ask if he had anything special planned that he should watch for. Chandler jokingly told him that he just pins people. At the end of his match, the 6,308 spectators at Hearnes Center could see that he was serious about his statement.
Chandler, who was ranked 14th in the nation, was the aggressor from the first whistle against Oklahoma’s No. 20 Chad Terry and won 18-1.
“Chandler is just a wrecking machine right now,” Coach Brian Smith said. “He’s got so much confidence in what he’s doing.”
While it was not a pin, he scored five points for the Tigers for a technical fall with a near fall.
“He brought the heat,” sophomore Max Askren said. “It was kind of funny that he was saying it, he must have been feeling good tonight.”
The win helped No. 12 Missouri defeat No. 18 Oklahoma 23-10.
Senior Tyler McCormick gave the Tigers an early upset at 133 pounds, defeating No. 13 Brian Shelton 6-0, and No. 15 Josh Wagner, 149 pounds, defeated No. 13 Will Roe 10-6. The Tigers also received wins from Nicholas Marable at 165 pounds, Raymond Jordan at 184 pounds, Max Askren at 197 pounds and heavyweight Mark Ellis.
Friday night’s meet was unlike any other this season.
While the Tigers took on the Sooners, the Missouri gymnasts were competing against Centenary College right next to them.
During the second and third periods of the 157-pound match, when Chandler was busy scoring near falls on four different occasions, the gymnasts from both schools lined up on the floor next to the wrestling mat to watch.
Chandler said he noticed the gymnasts sitting nearby but blocked them out.
Instead of a negative distraction for the Tigers, it was a positive. They have two matches before the Big 12 Conference Championships and then the National Championships, which have more fans and different matches occurring at once.
Chandler remembered the raucous crowds from when he wrestled at nationals as a freshman.
“I actually couldn’t hear coach Smith, who was inches away from me, because on the semifinals match the returning national champ was getting beat, so it’s a good atmosphere to be in,” Chandler said.
He said that he could feel the crowd get behind the Tigers after the 149-pound match. Missouri was trailing 7-3 when Wagner defeated Rowe, making the score 6-6. The Sooners were penalized a point for a bench violation.
“It’s tough mentally when the guy before you loses, but Wagner turned on the heat and I just kept it going,” Chandler said.
Chandler’s win put the Tigers up 11-6 and the Sooners never came closer than four points.