There was a confident attitude on the fourth floor of the Hearnes Center on Monday.
A certain swagger, not cockiness but confidence, ran through members of the No. 13 Missouri wrestling team.
The Tigers wouldn’t make any promises at Monday’s practice, but there is no doubt the team will only accept a win on Wednesday night when it hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“I think everyone pretty much understands the importance of this match,” junior Jeff Foust said. “We hate to lose, and I think we’ll come back strong. Hopefully, we won’t let this dual be close. I feel like last time we should have drilled them, and we let it get away from us.”
The “hopefully,” of Foust’s statement came after careful thought about how the exclusion of such a word could result in bulletin-board material for the Mocs.
Whether it’s confidence that was gained from nearly upsetting No. 2 Iowa State, or merely an extremely positive mental mindset, these Tigers are looking to avenge a 19-16 loss to the Mocs at the Virginia Duals on Jan. 14.
“This is a team that beat us,” coach Brian Smith said. “We weren’t very focused when we wrestled them the last time. They wrestled great, and I don’t think we wrestled our best. I hope they bring their best, and we wrestle our best, and we see the outcome this time.
“We were upset after that loss, because they kind of caught us not prepared. As a coach, I’m not happy about it that I didn’t have the team prepared, and they’re not happy because they didn’t show up prepared.”
Having dropped their past five dual meets dating back to Lehigh on Jan. 11, a lack of preparation is unacceptable.
“It’s a team that’s beaten us. We’re going to have the biggest crowd in the history of the program there,” Smith said. “If you can’t get fired up for that, then you don’t have a pulse.”
As if the Tigers needed more of an incentive to get a victory, Wednesday is senior night.
“It’s been one of the most successful classes to go through,” Smith said. “I think they’ve won 61 duals and numerous tournaments. The leadership that Tyron Woodley’s given, the perseverance of Cody Greene, Brad Cieleski, Clint Freeman and J.C. Russell that have been in and out of the lineup a little bit here and there but have stuck with it for five years. That’s not easy to do in a sport like this.
“It’s a great group of kids, any kid that makes it with me for five years truly loves the sport, cause it’s not easy. But they’ve all contributed so much to the program in many ways that we’re hoping we can get all five of them in the match on Wednesday. That’s our goal.”
For Woodley in particular, this meet has added significance. Woodley (No. 8 in the country, 31-3) has put together a fantastic senior season, but his most recent loss came against his 165-pound opponent from Tennessee-Chattanooga, No. 6 Jon Sioredas. Woodley has won eight straight matches, including his past three against Big 12 opponents ranked higher than he is.
“I think the biggest change is being able to deal with external factors and know how to focus on just my match,” Woodley said. “I just try to clear my mind when I go out there and step on the mat. I just focus on bit-by-bit. Take small parts at a time. I think that’s helping me out with my wrestling.”
MU has won its final home meet the past two seasons, and Smith claims that his team is “committed to sending out our seniors with a victory.”
Foust feels the same way, and with that newfound confidence, he sees no reason for the Tigers to come up short.
“I think we owe it to (the seniors),” Foust said. “I know all our guys will compete hard so we can get a win before they leave. I’m pretty confident we’ll do it.”