Missouri wrestling ends season in disappointment, confusion

Saturday, March 17, 2012 | 9:15 p.m. CDT

The tone of Missouri wrestling head coach Brian Smith voice still had traces of shock and disappointment after a day removed from his team's elimination from the NCAA tournament.

“You have to step back and say these guys accomplished some really good things,” Smith said. “But in sports, the only thing that matters is how you finish, and in that sense, the year was a letdown.”

The Tigers entered the tournament with a lot of confidence. They had won their first Big 12 championship and had more wrestlers invited to the tournament than any other school in the country. Before the second day of the three-day tournament had ended, each of the Tiger wrestlers had been knocked out, and none would be named All-Americans.

Smith called it one of the lowest moments of his time at Missouri, even compared to his first year with the Tigers, which ended with a 4-9 record and a fifth place finish in the Big 12 Championship.

“My first year (coaching Missouri) was tough, but to get 10 guys in the tournament and do so little with it is really hard to bear,” Smith said.

The team will begin training for the new season on Tuesday, but a much bigger question looms over the wrestling team and its staff: Who are they going to wrestle next year?

The Southeastern Conference does not have any Division I wrestling teams, meaning that when Missouri officially become a member of the SEC on July 1, the wrestling team will not have a conference.

Smith would like to stay with the Big 12, but feels there needs to be greater urgency to fix this problem.

“I wish I knew what conference we were going to be in. I don’t want to deal with this anymore, but as of now, we are homeless,” Smith said.

Despite the uncertainty about conferences, there is a lot of promise for the future. Nine of the ten wrestlers will be returning for the Tigers next season.

Smith was confident when talking about next season. He believes his team has a great ability to come back stronger from low points like this weekend.

"I know we will be back. This program has always dealt with adversity, and it will be my job to start preparing them for next season," Smith said. 

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