Missouri wrestling thrives in new conference, prepares for Senior Night

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
No. 1-ranked Missouri senior Dom Bradley wrestles Oklahoma senior Keldrick Hall in a heavyweight match Feb. 2 at the Hearnes Center. Bradley won by a 10-4 decision.

COLUMBIA — Six senior Missouri wrestlers will take to the mat for their last regular season home meet Wednesday.

What has evolved into a memorable season for several seniors, began with an offseason of uncertainty and unanswered questions. The questions began in November 2011 when it was announced that Missouri would leave the Big 12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference for the 2012-2013 season.

Wednesday's match

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
at Missouri

WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hearnes Center

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There was, however, one sticking point – the SEC doesn’t sponsor wrestling.

“It was exciting (Missouri’s move to the SEC) for the school and all of the other athletic departments,” senior wrestler Mike Larson said Monday. “But then there was that question of ‘what about us?’”

After the team went on to win its first Big 12 Conference championship in March 2012, questions surrounding the program’s future intensified, continuing throughout the following summer.

The team, however, remained focused on the coming season. The seniors were determined to remain competitive in their final season, regardless of the conference in which they would eventually compete.

“Coach (Brian Smith) had told us to have faith in the program, and I always knew they’d find a place for us because our team’s been so good over the past 10 years,” senior Nathan McCormick said Monday. “But yes, I was a little shocked at first.”

Smith was right. The Tigers’ inaugural season in the Mid-American Conference has been a success thus far. Missouri is ranked No. 1 in the eight-team conference with wrestlers ranked No. 1 in five of the 10 weight classes. Several members of the team are also having notable senior campaigns.

McCormick (26-2) is currently on an eight match win streak while fifth-year senior Todd Porter (25-6), named conference wrestler of the week on Jan. 31, is in the midst of a seven match win streak in his first year as a starter. Heavyweight senior Dom Bradley (27-0) remains undefeated, claiming the No. 1 ranking in his weight class.

During Wednesday's dual against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the program will honor them with Senior Night.

For Porter and Larson, it will mean one final time to perform in front of their families and the home crowd. For McCormick, whose two older brothers also wrestled for Missouri, it will mean being the last son to escort his parents onto the mat for Senior Night. For Bradley, it will mean being one step closer to reaching his goal of becoming a national champion.

For the seniors, the night will be bittersweet. While it will be an exciting atmosphere, it also marks the end of a chapter in their lives.

 “I don’t know if I’m really looking forward to it because it means I’m almost done,” Bradley. “But it’s exciting. It’s a great time.”

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