COLUMBIA — Competing in the Big 12 Conference can be a blessing or a curse for the Missouri wrestling team.
Coach Brian Smith says he likes the challenge and thinks the Tigers have what it takes to finish their season well. Four of their final five duals will be against Big 12 teams starting with Nebraska at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hearnes Center.
No. 4 Nebraska at
No. 6 Missouri
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Hearnes Center
Smith said if the Tigers can survive this stretch, the nationals won’t be as brutal.
“The Big 12 has five teams in the top 12,” Smith said. “When we match up with each other, it’s a battle. At the nationals, you can go in and take on some smaller schools that aren’t as competitive as the Big 12.”
Smith said the Tigers' 18-14 victory Sunday at Cornell will not be a huge momentum boost because of the individual nature of wrestling.
“I think it was just a match that we went out and wrestled hard and came out with a victory,” Smith said. “And now we have to redo it all again.”
Smith also pointed out that the team must remember not to pay too much attention to how Nebraska wrestles.
“We can’t focus too much,” Smith said. “When you go out and wrestle, if you do what you do well, you’re going to have success. If you focus too much on what the other guy can do well, you’re not going to wrestle well.”
Missouri is ranked sixth in the USA Today poll and Nebraska is ranked fourth. Smith said he knows both teams are going to wrestling at a high level on Saturday night.
“The key to this match is going to be matching the intensity level,” Smith said. “Every match, guys are going to scrap and fight for every point. Every match is going to be that way, and the team that decides to show up and wrestle the hardest for 7 minutes is usually going to win the match. The team that backs down a little bit or lacks a little bit of confidence is going to get beaten.”