COLUMBIA — The No. 7 Missouri Tigers wrestling team will open its Big 12 season on Sunday with a dual match against No. 16 Nebraska.
Although the Tigers defeated Big 12 foe Oklahoma State at the NWCA National Duals earlier in the season, this is the first official Big 12 meet for both Missouri and Nebraska.
No. 7 Missouri Tigers (14-5)
against No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Hearnes Center
“It’s a transition into another part of the season,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “There’s a lot more excitement from the fans.”
Two important individual matchups highlight the 1 p.m. contest at Hearnes Center.
In six of the 10 weight classes, both wrestlers are nationally ranked.
Perhaps the most exciting matchup features sophomore Zach Toal, a 165-pounder for Missouri, against Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska.
Toal comes into Sunday’s match ranked No. 11 among Division I wrestlers in the 165-pound weight class. Burroughs is the No. 1 wrestler in that class.
Burroughs won the national championship of his weight class in 2009 but didn't repeat last year because of injury.
“He’s one of the fastest wrestlers you will ever see,” Smith said of Burroughs. “He’s one of the best wrestlers in the country in any weight class.”
“He’s really quick,” Toal added.
Although the win would be big from a personal standpoint for Toal, he prefers to focus on what it would mean to his team.
“He’s No. 1, so it’d be good for the team if I got a win over him,” Toal said. “I just have to do what I’ve always done.”
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Smith said.
At the other end of the rankings, Nate McCormick of Missouri and Ridge Kiley of Nebraska will fight to improve their standing in the 133-pound weight class.
McCormick ranks No. 28, while Kiley comes into the match at No. 20. The top 33 wrestlers of each weight class are ranked, so a victory could solidify McCormick's standing.
“They’re both on the bubble, so it’s an important match,” Smith said.
After Sunday’s match against Nebraska, the Tigers have two straight road matches against No. 5 Oklahoma State on Feb. 4 and No. 11 Oklahoma on Feb. 5.