COLUMBIA – When the Big 12 Wrestling Championship was finished in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday night, Missouri senior 141-pounder Todd Schavrien and junior heavyweight Dom Bradley had won titles.
But, when they returned to Columbia at about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, there was no fanfare, no welcoming party.
And that’s just the way the two champions wanted it to be.
Schavrien and Bradley both said that winning a Big 12 championship was fine, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize: an NCAA championship.
“I’m glad I won it,” Bradley said. “But now it’s time to focus on nationals.”
“It’s taking the sideline now,” Schavrien said. “It hasn’t hit me that I’m the Big 12 champion.”
They said the best part of winning a Big 12 title is that it means they have momentum heading into the NCAA tournament. Schavrien said the Big 12 tournament was “just another stepping stone” on the path to his ultimate goal.
They are so focused on nationals that they didn’t even celebrate their victories. Rather, they caught up on some much needed sleep.
“I just went right to bed,” Schavrien said.
“I got on the bus and slept,” Bradley added.
Now Schavrien and Bradley have a week and a half off before heading to the NCAA Division I National Championships from March 17 to 19 in Philadelphia. That time will be spent fine-tuning their technique and staying in shape.
Missouri coach Brian Smith said Bradley and Schavrien need to relax, stay focused on their goal and not get intimidated by the magnitude of the national tournament.
“You say it’s just another tournament, and they know it’s a big tournament,” he said. “But they’ve just got to go wrestle like they’re capable of.”
Schavrien said he gets nervous before matches, but said he has a good support system that includes former Missouri wrestlers Mark Ellis and Michael Chandler to help calm him down.
“Whenever those negative thoughts do come to my head, they’ll shoot me a text every once in a while and just be like, ‘Don’t be fearful, don’t let those negative thoughts get to your head,’” he said.
This will be Schavrien’s last shot at a national championship, something he is fully aware of after falling short the past two years.
“What’s going to be different for me this year is that I know there’s no tomorrow,” he said.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was 6 years old,” Schavrien said. “This is what I’ve dreamed about since I was that little.”