Sunday is bound to be a long day for many of the wrestlers on the Missouri wrestling team.
In fact, it may be one of the most grueling days of competition that they face this season; the team will travel to Penn State University in State College, Pa., to compete in the Nittany Lion Open. This tournament kicks off a two-month stretch in which the Tigers will not compete at home, and it will also provide the wrestlers with an opportunity to face a variety of opponents and track their development thus far.
“There’s going to be some good matches,” Mark Ellis, a senior heavyweight, said. “It’s a good chance to show what we’re capable of.”
The competition features 41 teams and 594 wrestlers. It will give the wrestlers a chance to face opponents from a wide variety of schools. Brackets for each weight class have between 84 and 128 participants. Comparatively, the recent Missouri Open’s brackets were composed of between 16 and 32 men.
“It’s enormous,” head coach Brian Smith said. “It’s going to be a lot of wrestling in one day.”
The tournament is structured so that if a wrestler loses before the round of 32, he will be eliminated. From the round of 32 on, wresters face double elimination. Any one man could wrestle as much as ten times in one day.
“You’re going to have a wrestle a lot,” Smith said. “I mean a lot. This is a long day.”
Smith also said that the tournament is a good way to begin the long stretch of away meets that will not end until Feb. 6. Giving the 16 wrestlers who will compete a chance to face so many opponents will help them to figure out where they stand, and having to travel such a long distance will help prepare them for future trips.
Though Smith hopes that his starters, especially seniors Nick Marable and Mark Ellis, will have strong showings, he said that the tournament will be a great learning opportunity for most of the team.
“It’s not even all about winning,” he said. “We really want to see how we’re developing as a team because we’re so young. I know we’re getting better, but this is going to give us a lot of mat time.”
For Ellis, the tournament is a chance to reassert his skills. After his poor showing at the Missouri Open and recent team losses to Cal Poly and Purdue, he said that the tournament will test the team’s resolve and its will to win.
“It’s going to be some good wrestling,” Ellis said. “We’re going to see where we’re at and we’re going to be tested. Things won’t go our way for everybody, but I think it’s going to be a chance for us to see if we can push through.”