COLUMBIA — The fifth-ranked MU wrestling team finished third at the Big 12 Conference Championships on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.
The Tigers finished with 55 points, behind Iowa State and Nebraska which each scored 70.
“I’m not pleased with the overall performance, but we did have a few bright spots,” head coach Brian Smith said in a phone interview.
Smith said senior Marcus Hoehn, junior Nick Marable, and sophomore Todd Schavrien had strong showings.
Seven MU wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will be held in St. Louis March 19-21. Two Tigers won individual titles. Hoehn defeated Nick Gallick of Iowa State 2-1 in the 141-pound weight class final. Marable beat Stephen Dwyer from Nebraska 3-1 in the finals to claim the 165-pound division title.
Junior Max Askren was unable to win his third-straight Big 12 title, losing 15-4 to Craig Brester from Nebraska in the semifinals. Askren had beaten Brester in the finals the past two seasons.
“He’s really improved a lot on top,” Askren said in a phone interview. “I didn’t have the best performance of my life." Askren finished third in the 197-pound division.
Schavrien was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers. Seeded fifth in the 133-pound weight class, Schavrien finished third after beating Nebraska's Matt Vacanti 3-2 in the consolation final.
Three other Tigers came close to individual titles. Senior Michael Chandler lost 6-4 to Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska in the finals of the 157-pound division. Senior Raymond Jordan lost a 3-1 heartbreaker in the finals of the 174-pound division. Jordan was taken down with less than five seconds remaining in the final period. Junior Mark Ellis also lost 3-1 in his finals match against David Zabriskie of Iowa State.
“We gave up a lot of mistakes late in the period,” Smith said.
The Big 12 championships serve as the final test for the Tigers before the NCAA Championships. Despite not being completely satisfied with his team’s performance, Smith knows everything can be forgiven with a strong performance in St. Louis.
“Nationals is a whole new weekend,” Smith said. “We’ll be ready.”