COLUMBIA — "Rip 'em up! Tear 'em up! Give 'em hell! Tigers!" a fan shouted from his front row seat. Behind him sat a young girl with a black and gold bow that kept her hair from getting stuck in her tiger face paint.
The mixture of fans packing Hearnes Center reflected Friday's unique Beauty and the Beast meet, which brought Missouri's gymnastics and wrestling teams together for an event packed with more action than usual. Missouri's gymnasts took on Auburn while the wrestlers hosted Oklahoma State.
After the announcers introduced each team, the wrestlers wasted no time beginning their match.
The crowd's rising cheers were the only indication of this for Missouri's gymnasts, whose backs were to the wrestling mat as they focused on the vault, their first rotation.
"I didn't even notice there was a wrestling match going on," sophomore gymnast Rachel Updike said.
The gymnastics team's focus continued as the meet progressed. Sophomore gymnast Laura Kappler stuck her landing on the beam among roars from the crowd, which was celebrating senior wrestler Nathan McCormick's big move nearby. Kappler scored a 9.700 for her execution.
That's not to say the gymnasts didn't appreciate sharing the spotlight with the wrestlers. After its final rotation, the team sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor, cheering on senior Missouri wrestler Todd Porter as he ended with a win.
The wrestlers and gymnasts often eat dinner and attend study halls together, and they support each other at their usually separate dual meets.
On this night, though, the two teams were introduced together.
"We're really good friends with the wrestlers," said senior gymnast Tori Howard, who placed first on the beam with a career high score of 9.900. "We have a lot of mutual respect."
This was the sixth Beauty and the Beast meet in seven years (it wasn't held in 2012). The crowd of 6,486 — the largest Beauty and the Beast attendance in history — impacted the gymnasts.
"It was a little crazy at first," said Updike of her first Beauty and the Beast event. "But it felt good to have a big crowd. We feed off that."
While fans donned silver wigs, belly shirts and sunglasses and danced to Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," the team tried to stay focused on the task at hand.
"When you're up there doing your job, you hear a voice in your head telling you what you need to do," freshman gymnast Rachel Henderson said.
Despite the 196.725-194.575 loss to Auburn, Missouri gymnastics coach Rob Drass plans on continuing the tradition.
"The city of Columbia loves this meet," Drass said. "I think the team grew a lot tonight."
The crowd's cheers at the meet's close concurred.
Missouri will stay in Columbia next week as the Tigers face LSU on Friday at Hearnes Center.