COLUMBIA — The white walls of the Missouri wrestling team’s practice facility are, for the most part, unassuming.
The west wall reads “Missouri Wrestling” in modest block letters. The north wall holds only a small scoreboard that appears even smaller on the large wall. The south wall is bare.
WHEN: Thursday and Friday
WHERE: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
The east wall, however, is different.
It reminds the wrestlers of their program’s history. Four boards hold the names of Missouri’s past Academic All-Americans, Big Six and Big Eight Conference champions, Big 12 Conference champions and NCAA Champions and All-Americans. It is a daily reminder of what it takes to achieve greatness.
On March 10, seniors Nathan McCormick, Dom Bradley, junior Alan Waters and sophomore Drake Houdashelt ensured that their names would be enshrined on the wall. All four won conference championships to help the Tigers secure their first Mid-American Conference team title.
Now the team hopes to add to the three NCAA champion names on the wall.
For the second consecutive year, Missouri has qualified a wrestler in each of the 10 weight classes. However, the wrestlers say they feel more prepared and focused than a year ago.
Last season, the team was without one of its top wrestlers as Bradley took an Olympic redshirt to compete in the Olympic Trials. Three of Missouri’s 10 wrestlers won their first match, including Waters and senior Brent Haynes. Only Haynes made it past his second match and into the second day of competition in the championship bracket before being eliminated in his third match.
This year, with Bradley back and an additional year of experience for the eight starters who competed in last year’s tournament, the wrestlers are confident that they will be more successful.
The first round of the NCAA Tournament will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.