Missouri gymnastics coach Rob Drass shares friendly rivarly with former mentor

Friday, February 3, 2012 | 11:12 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Watching the interactions between Missouri gymnastics head coach Rob Drass and North Carolina State's head coach Mark Stevenson on Friday night at Hearnes Center, it would be hard to tell the two teams were competing against each other.

Throughout the match, the coaches were conversing between routines and rotations and congratulating the other teams' gymnasts.

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With the victory Friday night, the Missouri gymnastics team improved to 5-0 on the season.

The No. 17 Tigers will travel to Chicago next weekend for IGI Chicago Style Invite at Navy Pier.  The Tigers will compete against a field consisting of No. 7 UCLA, No. 16 Boise State and No. 19 Illinois.

“We’re talking, we’re sharing things saying ‘hey great job, you guys look good on this event,’ and they’re telling us we look good on that event," Drass said.

Friday marked the first time Drass had the opportunity to showcase his head coaching abilities to Stevenson, his longtime friend and mentor, as the No. 17 Tigers led throughout all four rotations and defeated the No. 23 Wolfpack, 195.925-195.225.

“Its one of those things where you always want to have a good showing in front of your friends," Drass said. "Bragging rights is always important."

The two coaches first met when Drass was a gymnast at Penn State from 1987-1990.  The two met at Camp Woodward in Woodward, Penn., a camp where the Penn State team trains, and gymnasts come to from all over the world to hone their skills during the summer. Stevenson ran the camp's women's program at the time.

He began to mentor Drass after Drass graduated college and started looking for coaching positions.

“He showed me what it was to be a head coach and how to do it,” Drass said. “He showed me that you can be authoritative and strict but also have everybody like you and be a good guy.”

After Drass landed his first coaching job as an assistant coach at Nebraska, Drass continued consistent contact with Stevenson, returning to Pennsylvania every summer to help at Camp Woodward. 

“You would spend evenings talking about gymnastics and go out to the local watering hole and talk and play pool or whatever,” Drass said.

Drass, in his 13th season with the Tigers, has raised the national profile of Missouri gymnastics. In 2010 he led the Tigers to their first NCAA Championship appearance.  With the victory Friday night, the Tigers are now 5-0 in dual meets, the first time Missouri has started a season with five straight dual-meet wins.

Mary Burke, who won the all-around title Friday, said she was glad Missouri won the match for Drass against his mentor.

“He’s done so much for us throughout our whole careers and this season,” Burke said. “Just to go out and show the work that he’s put in and everyone’s put in, it means a lot, especially against people he knows."

Drass, who spent the afternoon showing the North Carolina State coaching staff the campus and gymnastics facilities, said he expects to continue the "friendly rivalry" with the Wolfpack.

“I think we're going to be doing a home and away with them quite a bit now,” Drass said. “We talked tonight and we are going to try and make this a regular thing.”

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