COLUMBIA — "I'm looking in the practice rooms," MU wrestling coach Brian Smith said. "There's some good days, and then there's days I shake my head and say, 'Oh, we have a ways to go.'"
Smith is willing to acknowledge his MU wrestling team's relative inexperience at the Division I level. For example, his starters at the two lightest weight classes for Saturday's meet at Lock Haven, Pa., are a redshirt freshman and a sophomore transfer.
But he can counter that from a coaching standpoint with help from a familiar source.
Ben Askren certainly doesn't lack experience against strong competition. His college career over, the two-time national champion is serving as an assistant coach for the second year. Smith is excited to take advantage of Askren's leadership.
"He's very serious when it comes to the mat," Smith said. "We're letting Ben coach more and more this year, teaching technique. He's around more this year, because he's not training for the Olympics. This year, he's going to be around probably 90 percent of the time."
Smith said one of his initial concerns is how younger players will handle the difficulty of collegiate wrestling.
"Some of these freshmen aren't used to losing," he said. "They were multiple-time state champs. Dorian (Henderson) was a three-timer and Troy Dolan was a three-time (champ). They've had lots of success, top recruits in the country. And now they're coming into an element where everybody's going to be that way that they're competing with, especially when you get to the Big 12."
Nick Marable, a junior ranked No. 1 nationally in the 165-pound weight class, said he is excited about what he has seen from both the newer wrestlers and veterans.
"Our whole team, just the way they competed (at the Black and Gold event) was really well," Marable said. "The way we wrestle in the practice rooms just like that, people go back and forth. You can't really say one person's better than another because of wrestle-offs. We have so many good competitors on our team this year."
Sophomore Todd Schavrien said he was limited by injury at the end of last season when he wrestled for Arizona State. He said he is glad to have a public scrimmage behind him before Saturday, his first competition as a Tiger.
"It was just nice for me to put on a suit and finally wrestle," he said. "You kind of get that different atmosphere as opposed to coming in to the same wrestling room every day and putting on shorts and a T-shirt."
Smith is confident about the team's potential once newer wrestlers start picking up wins.
"I know we have a ways to go," he said. "When a young team gets success, it's scary because then they think they're invincible and they'll go out there and battle anybody. And that's a good thing, and that's what we've got to get out of this group."