ST LOUIS — It was a day of highs and lows for the Missouri wrestling team.
The Tigers were not expected to compete for the team title, but were tied for third after junior Raymond Jordan won his quarterfinal match at 184-pounds. With No. 2 sophomore Max Askren approaching the mat for his quarterfinal match at 197-pounds, the Tigers had a chance to take sole possession of third place.
Instead, Askren lost 5-4 to Central Michigan’s Wynn Michalak. Askren declined to discuss his match afterwards.
Junior Michael Chandler also lost his quarterfinal match at 157-pounds. Seeded 10th, Chandler faced No. 2 Michael Poeta of Illinois. Chandler scored a reverse in the first period but lost 7-3. He, too, declined an interview.
The four quarterfinalists were one more than Missouri had in 2007 when it finished third at Nationals, it’s best finish ever.
However, by the end of the day, Missouri was out of the top ten in the team competition. Iowa led with 98.5 points
The Tigers had three wrestlers competing in the consolation bracket, but seniors Tyler McCormick, 133 pounds, and Josh Wagner, 149 pounds, were both eliminated during the morning session. Sophomore Mark Ellis won both his morning matches to advance to the fifth consolation match in the evening.
The Tigers surge into the top three during the morning session was led by sophomore Nicholas Marable, 165 pounds, and Jordan, 184 pounds.
Both won their quarterfinals matches, guaranteeing All-American honors.
For Raymond, it was his first All-American in three trips to Nationals and said that it felt amazing.
“Especially after all the times I put pressure on myself before a match and lost the match before I stepped on the mat,” Raymond said.
In his quarterfinal match, Raymond had a rematch with Nebraska’s Vince Jones. Jordan defeated Jones 11-4 in the dual meet and then 8-3 during the Big 12 Tournament.
This time he won 3-1. Jones led 1-0 to start the third period, but Jordan scored an escape and then a takedown to win.
“I’ve wrestled him five or six times before, and I had a better gas tank than he does,” Jordan said.
The Tigers have faced familiar foes throughout the tournament, and Jordan said Missouri’s depth in the practice room is key in these matches. Jones might have known how Jordan would wrestle, but Jordan thought he could attack him harder for the full seven minutes.
“It’s hard to game plan for a guy who is going to come at you for seven minutes unless you have a guy in practice who will come at you for seven minutes,” Jordan said. “A lot of guys don’t because if you are good, nobody will want to wrestle you in practice.”
Missouri entered the evening session with five wrestlers still alive, but only Askren won a match.
Missouri coach Brian Smith left the Scottrade Center immediately after the session without conducting interviews.
Chandler was the first Tiger to fall during the evening session, losing 8-2 to No. 3 Brandon Becker of Indiana. In the third period, Chandler whispered something to Becker while on the mat, and they had to be separated by a referee after Becker responded angrily. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on Chandler.
Next up for Missouri was Marable, who faced No. 2 Mark Perry of Iowa in the semifinals. With the score tied at two in the third period, Perry scored a takedown with 14 seconds left. The Missouri coaches vehemently disagreed, running onto the mat and screaming at the referee. The Missouri fans joined the coaches, booing loudly.
“I don’t know what all this booing is about,” Perry said.
Missouri’s other semifinalist, Jordan, also lost a close match, falling 2-1 against No. 2 Mike Pucillo of Ohio State. Pucillo won in overtime, escaping in the first tie-breaker period.
Ellis also lost, falling 3-2 to No. 6 Kyle Massey of Wisconsin.
The lone bright spot of the evening session was Askren. Needing a victory against No. 3 Mike Tamilow of Northwestern to make All-American, he recovered from his morning loss. After Tamilow scored the first takedown, Askren was in control for the rest of the match, winning 7-3. Twice he looked at the ref, begging for points on a reversal and near fall. He received both calls.
“If you have the ability to look over at the ref and say ‘He’s not moving of his back’ when he is on his back, then he is more apt to give you points,” Askren said.
He competed one more time during the final session, losing 9-2 against No. 8 Craig Brester of Nebraska.
Marable and Jordan will wrestle Saturday morning, with a chance to finish as high as third or as low as sixth. Askren will wrestle in the seventh place match.