COLUMBIA — For two hours Friday night, the Beauty and the Beast meet filled the Hearnes Center with motion and sound.
As Missouri wrestlers and gymnasts showcased their skills side-by-side on the main floor, it was often difficult to distinguish where one sport began and the other ended.
The gymnasts' pop music flowed over the wrestling mats. The roaring wrestling fans often overwhelmed the softer sounds of the gymnasts. Yet it all seemed to work out.
The gracefulness of the gymnasts was beautiful. Their strength was apparent as they moved around the mat with fluid motion. The physicality of the wrestlers was brutal, but their beauty was also revealed in the quickness and smoothness of their technique. Athleticism was everywhere and the 6,486 fans cheered in appreciation.
It was an unnatural marriage that worked.
Although the wrestling team had a sub-par performance in the 21-13 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma State, Missouri head coach Brian Smith said it was good preparation for the NCAA tournament, and his wrestlers said they enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I think it’s fun,” wrestler Todd Porter said. “The more the merrier.”
The meet was a highlight of both teams’ seasons, drawing a larger home crowd than either sport had seen this year. It gave each an opportunity to grow outside of its traditional fan base, if just for one night.