COLUMBIA—On his way to two All-American titles, Missouri senior Nick Marable knew how to win the close matches. This year, he’s not only winning the close matches, he's dominating opponents on the mat.
For the past two seasons, Missouri coaches and other Missouri wrestlers often teased Marable for winning matches by only a point or two. This season, 15 of Marable’s 31 wins have been bonus-point victories for the Tigers, including four pins.
“My sophomore year I just went out there to win because I was a new guy coming in,” Marable said. “It wasn’t so much a focus on killing people. You had all those guys like (former Missouri All-American Michael) Chandler who went balls to the wall the whole time and got extra points, so that year, I was just focused on winning.”
In his sophomore season, Marable finished third at the NCAA wrestling championships. He said that when he became a junior, opponents figured out how to wrestle him, and in addition to suffering a concussion at the NCAA’s, finished in seventh place.
Now, heading into his final postseason, Marable is ranked No. 5 at 165 pounds.
“The practice room has made him push himself and score more,” Missouri wrestling coach Brian Smith said. “He’ll get to the matches, up by two or three points saying, ‘I have to get a major for the team’, and I think he’s taken on a leadership role in that. It just started happening that he would beat nationally ranked guys, which made it easier for Nick, and myself. He takes stress off of me by staying in great positions so that I never have to panic with him. He stays really calm and composed on the mat, even when they seem crazy.”
Marable entered this season with only six career major decision wins, but has already recorded nine major decision wins this season. In his junior season, 15 of Marable’s wins were by two points or fewer.
“Coaches worked with me a lot this summer,” Marable said. “They worked with me a lot on second and third attacks and pushing the pace. Sometimes I worry about getting tired, but I realized with wrestling Max (Askren) and Brent (Haynes), I just think there’s no way I can get tired, so why not go hard the entire time? That’s probably the biggest part.”
Marable enters this weekend’s Big 12 Tournament as the No. 2 seed at 165 pounds, and will attempt to win his third straight Big 12 Tournament Championship. The top four in his weight class qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Up until the final regular season match against Iowa State, Marable was undefeated in his career against Big 12 opponents, but lost to Iowa State’s Jon Reader, who was ranked No. 2.
“There were a couple things that went wrong. I just came out there not ready to wrestle. I was used to him not attacking me, so I figured it was going to be similar, but that mentality was not good preparation," Marable said. "I don’t think he’s better than me, and I think I am going to beat him next time we wrestle. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to stay undefeated against all the Big 12 opponents. I was not focused on the match and just wrestling so it affected me, but I won’t let that happen again.”
Marable is one of three seniors that lead the Tigers into this weekend’s Big 12 Tournament at Oklahoma.
The NCAA Championships are March 18-20 in Omaha, Nebraska.