The meet held as much drama as throwing a sacrificial lamb to a pack of well, Tigers.
Fourth-ranked Missouri taught the visiting Lindenwood Lions, ranked third in NAIA, what Division I wrestling was all about Friday. The Tigers outworked and outlasted Lindenwood to score seven falls in a 44-9 victory at Hearnes Center.
Sophomore Austin DeVoe set the tone in the 125-pound match, pinning Lindenwood’s Andrew Bradbury in 3:38. That proved to be one of the longer matches.
Senior Kenny Burleson (157), redshirt freshman Ben Askren (174) and junior J.C. Russell (184) earned first-period pins.
Missouri’s Mike Whitehead (heavyweight) also scored a fall in the second period. Jeff Faust tacked five points onto the team lead with a technical fall victory against David Bonilla. Redshirt freshman Gabe Conaghan, filling in for Tyron Woodley at 165, won a 7-3 decision against Lindenwood’s Corey Johnson.
Missouri senior J.P. Reese wrestled at 149, eight pounds heavier than his usual class. Reese, who pinned Lindenwood’s Josh Brining in 5:28, attributed Friday’s success to superior conditioning.
“We just work harder,” Reese said. “I mean if those guys even made it to the third period it was over.”
Reese has 12 falls this season. With almost two months to go, he is six falls shy of Kevin Herron’s season record.
Six of the Lions’ points came off an MU forfeit in the 133 class. Louis Edmonds received credit for the win. The other three came off Lindenwood’s other victory, a Leo Martinez 13-7 decision against Amond Prater.
The victory marked Missouri’s return to Hearnes Center after a grueling five-week road trip. During that span, the Tigers met four teams ranked in the top 25. Lesser opponents such as Lindenwood and Central Missouri, which the Tigers face Thursday, should give the team a little time to catch its breath.
“Every weekend we’ve been on the road and wrestling tough competition,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “We haven’t had as much time to lift or train. We have to get it in these next couple weeks.”
Missouri’s next Big 12 Conference test is not until Feb. 13 at Iowa State. Smith is optimistic the rest will make the Tigers stronger rather than softer.
“(Our team) is a very mature group,” Smith said. “They understand this a two week window when you can train hard and you have to do it.”