COLUMBIA — Missouri wrestler Nick Marable could only laugh when he found out who his first opponent is at the NCAA Championships. His dad, however, wasn’t as optimistic.
Marable, Missouri’s highest seeded wrestler at No. 3 at 165 pounds, will face Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui, the same opponent that defeated Marable in the first round at last season’s NCAA Championships.
Junior Todd Schavrien, unseeded at 141 pounds vs. No. 1 seed, Cornell's true freshman Kyle Dake.
Senior Nick Marable, No. 3 seed at 165 pounds vs. Stanford's Nick Amuchastegui.
Sophomore Dorian Henderson, unseeded at 174 pounds vs. Bucknell's Shane Riccio.
Senior Max Askren, No. 6 seed at 184 pounds vs. Stanford's Zack Giesen.
Freshman Brent Haynes, No. 12 seed at 197 pounds vs. Ohio University's Eric Schuth.
Senior Mark Ellis, No. 9 seed at heavyweight vs. winner of the bracket's pigtail match, either Kent State's Brendan Barlow or Cornell's Joshua Armone.
At first, Marable wasn’t going to look at the brackets. Then, his father, Tom Marable, sent him a text message that let Nick Marable know who his opponent is in the first round.
Tom Marable: "Did you see the brackets?"
Nick Marable: "No, I wasn’t going to look at the brackets, but who do I have?"
Tom Marable: "Same kid as last year."
Nick Marable: "Haha that’s funny."
Tom Marable: "Glad you think it’s funny. You lost to him last year."
Nick Marable: "Yeah, but this year’s different."
Tom Marable: "I hope so."
“He’s just my first match,” Nick Marable said Monday. “I’m not looking for revenge, I’m not thinking of beating any one person, I’m just thinking about going out there and winning wrestling.”
Marable entered the 2009 NCAA Championships with high hopes of winning the national championship, but those were instantly shattered after suffering a concussion in his match against Amuchastegui.
The match against Amuchastegui was going Marable’s way. Like he has done in his matches throughout his career, Marable scored the first takedown against Amuchastegui. But Amuchastegui tied the score up at 2 after two escapes.
Then, everything changed. With the two wrestlers circling towards the edge of the mat, an area where Marable had a lot of success scoring, Marable suffered a concussion when his head collided with Amuchastegui’s, and Marable fell backwards into the arms of Missouri coach Brian Smith.
“I watched it one time on film, and I turned it off because it wasn’t Nick,” Smith said. “I remember Nick getting hit in the head and he just collapsed in my lap. I looked at my assistant and said we’re in trouble.”
Marable was in a lot of trouble, but decided to keep wrestling.
"It was the end of his season and Doc cleared him," Smith said. "He wanted to be an All-American again and help the team standing as well. We left it up to him, and that's what he decided to do."
With time running short in the match, and the score still tied, Marable was in a haze. That was when Amuchastegui took advantage and took Marable down for two points to secure the upset.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” Marable said. “I just remember waking up in Coach Smith’s hands, and I don’t remember anything after that.”
Marable bounced back from the loss against Amuchastegui and the concussion and finished the NCAA Championships by taking seventh place for his second All-American title.
One year later, the two are set to meet again in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
Marable is confident that this year he’s trained smarter and better, and that he’s an overall better wrestler.
“This year is different,” Marable said. “I believe that it’s going to go the opposite way this time, and I’m going to come out with a win.”
If something unforeseen doesn't happen again to Marable, that could be the case.
After winning the Big 12 Championship, Marable has a great draw in the bracket. Many of the other top wrestlers in the 165-pound weight class will have to face each other before wrestling Marable, who won’t have to wrestle another seeded wrestler until at least Friday morning’s quarterfinals.
“(Winning a national championship) is something that’s been my goal since I’ve been here,” Marable said. “It’s going to be mean the world to win it, but I guess I can tell you more afterwards.”
Marable, as well as five other Missouri wrestlers, will start competition at the three-day NCAA Wrestling Championships at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 18, in Omaha, Nebraska.