Missouri wrestlers eager for big crowd

Thursday, February 12, 2009 | 9:41 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Not many see the common ground between the sports of wrestling and gymnastics. Some Missouri athletes see a connection, though.

“Over here at the Hearnes Center, the only other athletes we see all of the time are the gymnasts,” Tigers wrestler Michael Chandler said. “It’s really cool because gymnastics is another sport that is individualized. When they’re on the floor, it’s all eyes on them. Just like when you’re wrestling, all eyes are on you.”

Next match

No. 9 Central Michigan at No. 5 Missouri
Third-annual Beauty and the Beast competition

When: Friday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
Gymnastics meet against Illinois begins at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Hearnes Center

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That unique aspect of the two sports has made for a good combination every season for the past two years, one that continues this season.

The wrestling team and gymnastics team will perform at the same time in the same arena for the third annual Beauty and the Beast event Friday night at Hearnes Center. Gymnastics starts at 6:30 and wrestling starts at 7. The wrestling team is undefeated at the event and will try to remain so against Central Michigan.

Chandler, who has competed in the earlier Beauty and the Beast events, said he enjoys the bigger crowd and believes it adds to the team’s momentum.

“In the big tournaments, there are a lot of matches and there are a lot of people," he said. "This is a kind of a match where we can double our attendance usually.

Tigers wrestling coach Brian Smith said he is amazed how popular the event is becoming. He said a lot of universities are starting to try it, and he likes that the community enjoys it. But from his perspective, he said it hard to notice a difference from other competitions.

“I don’t think I’ve watched a minute of the gymnastics,” Smith said. “It’s not that I dislike gymnastics, but I’m a coach that’s focused on wrestling, and that’s what I’m there to do.”

Missouri wrestler Dorian Henderson, who collected his first career pin against Oklahoma State last Saturday, is competing in his first Beauty and the Beast meet.

“I’m excited about it, but I don’t think it will be that hard to concentrate,” Henderson said. “It’s just a match. We should be able to block out those distractions and get the job done. We’re just treating it as another meet.”

The Missouri wrestlers compete against Iowa State in their final dual of the season at 2 p.m. Sunday at Hearnes Center.

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