Missouri wrestlers prefer function over flash

Friday, March 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA —“The Rock Bottom.” “The Stone Cold Stunner.” “The Walls of Jericho.”

These are the signature moves of professional wrestling champions.

The moves are flamboyant. The moves require showmanship. The moves captivate the crowd.

The moves, however, are not necessarily practical.

Missouri wrestlers have their own signature moves. While not as flamboyant or recognizable as those of their professional counterparts, these takedowns have proven effective.

In wrestling, position is everything. It is critical to both a wrestler’s offense and defense. Every moment wrestlers spend out of position leaves them open to attack. Every moment wrestlers spend in position offers them an opportunity to shoot for a takedown. They lunge toward opponents like striking snakes.

"It all starts with a good stance," sophomore Devin Mellon said Tuesday. "I’ve seen guys with only two or three moves, but staying in a good stance takes you a long way."

As in most sports, a good stance is essential to any success a wrestler may have. Similar to a baseball player’s batting stance, a wrestler maintains a low center of gravity and balance. This gives him an edge and allows him to execute his go-to move and put his opponent at a disadvantage.

A head inside sweep single has always been my bread and butter move,” Mellon said.

The move is one of the many variations of a single leg takedown. It involves Mellon grabbing one of his opponent’s legs and using his superior lower position and balance to force them to the ground. A highly technical move, it is all about timing. It’s the signature move he used throughout high school and still relies on at the collegiate level.

Mellon, an NCAA qualifier last season while starting in place of senior Dom Bradley (who took an Olympic redshirt), believes that having a wide array of moves is overrated. He says that if your technique is solid and you have a consistent move, there’s no need to vary from it.

“When I’m running camps, little kids always tell me, ‘teach me a cool move,’ ” Mellon said. “What I tell them is to go watch the NCAA championship because (the combination of moves) is all really basic stuff. They’re just really good at what they do.”

That’s not to say that some members of the team don’t have aspirations to include “cool” moves into their arsenal.

“I probably wish I had a blast double (leg takedown),” senior Mike Larson said. “But to get position, you have to be real quick and real fast.”

Similar to a football tackle, the blast double is executed by a wrestler lunging at his opponent, wrapping up their legs, lifting them into the air, and forcing them to the ground. It’s the signature move of 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs.

For his senior postseason, Larson will stay grounded in more conventional moves, opting for the single leg sweep like Mellon. It might not be a "Stone Cold Stunner," but that's all right with him. There are enough variations of it to keep him satisfied and in control.

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