COLUMBIA — Missouri wrestler Brent Haynes knows how to bring the Hearnes Center crowd to its feet.
In two of Missouri’s home meets this season, Haynes, a freshman, upset top-15 wrestlers in the 197 pound weight class, receiving standing ovations both times. In the first home match of the season, Haynes, unranked at the time, upset No. 12 Patrick Bond of Illinois 4-1. Last Sunday, Haynes, ranked No. 13 at the time, upset Oklahoma State’s Alan Gelogaev 8-7. Against Gelogaev, Haynes trailed 4-0 in the first period but scored two takedowns in the third period to tie the match and received a riding time point to win.
In this week’s rankings, Haynes moved up to No. 10 to become the only freshman ranked in the top 20 in his weight class.
Haynes wasn’t even sure at the beginning of the season what weight class he would be wrestling this season. But when senior Max Askren dropped from 197 to 184, that allowed Haynes to step into the lineup. Before making his final decision to drop down a weight, Askren talked with Haynes and made sure that Haynes would be OK with wrestling up a weight class. Haynes said he didn’t have a problem taking on the challenge.
“Is it a tough weight class,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “Yes, but he’s performed well all season. You’re going to have a kid that’s All-Americaning as a freshman.”
One of the main reasons that Haynes has been successful in his first year of collegiate wrestling is his ability to control people on the top position.
“He’s a leg rider,” Smith said. “He’s cranking on your shoulder while his hips are crushing you down. When you look at his legs, he’s really using them like he’s got four arms. When you see some guys ride, they don’t use their legs, so they only have two arms. It’s a huge advantage when you have a good leg rider.”
In college wrestling, it is uncommon to see people control from the top, since many wrestlers are quick enough to achieve early escapes. But Haynes said that he has always been tough on top.
“I was always good in high school on top,” Haynes said. “But once I came here, coach Smith kind of refined and touched up a few things I was doing so now instead of riding out three out of four people I wrestle, I’m riding out everyone.”
Haynes is third on the team in falls with six, behind 2009 NCAA National Champion Mark Ellis and freshman Nathan McCormick, who each have eight.
Regardless of Haynes' success so far this year, the toughest challenge still lies ahead. Out of the five Big 12 wrestlers at 197, all but one are ranked in the top 10 in the country, with Gelogaev fell to No. 11 in this week’s rankings.
“You either got to get tough or get out,” Haynes said. “Either I’m going to get my butt kicked every time I wrestle a Big 12 kid, or I’m going to have to step it up.”
Haynes toughest test of the season thus far will come Sunday, when the team travels to Ames, Iowa, to take on the Iowa State Cyclones. Haynes will take on defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Jake Varner.
“It’s a measuring stick for him to see where he’s at against the best,” Smith said. “Can he beat him? Yeah because he brings some things to the table that guys aren’t use to seeing at that weight class.”
Haynes said that he just has to wrestle his match and remain confident against Varner.
“There’s nothing really for me to lose, I can only gain out of this match,” Haynes said. “It’s just an opportunity to prove how hard I’ve been working.”
Missouri wraps up its regular season at Iowa State before heading to the Big 12 Tournament on March 6.