It’s anyone’s guess who will be in the Missouri wrestling team’s lineup today for their regular-season-ending dual with Tennessee-Chattanooga. The team’s strategy may depend more on what doctors and trainers have to say than coach Brian Smith.
The flu has spread among the Tigers, and as of Wednesday night, Smith said only 18 of 40 wrestlers on the team were healthy,
“We’re trying to get some detox sent in,” he said. “We’re just really sick.”
No. 3 Missouri will take on the No. 13 Mocs at 1 p.m. at Hearnes Center.
The Tigers will honor seniors Ben Askren and Matt Pell before the match, though it remains to be seen whether they will wrestle. They, along with freshman Ashtin Primus, missed Wednesday’s dual with Old Dominion because of the flu.
The unranked Monarchs challenged the Tigers (12-2) before falling 20-12. Two of the three Missouri substitutes in the lineup lost. The close dual had Smith worried about the match-up with Chattanooga.
“We have a tougher team coming in Sunday, and I don’t know who’s going to be healthy,” he said.
The Mocs are 15-1 on the season with their only loss coming to No. 5 Central Michigan and have five ranked wrestlers in their lineup. Even if Missouri’s entire starting lineup wrestles today, the Mocs will have the higher-ranked wrestler in three weight classes. If Askren and Pell are unable to go, they would have the favorite in at least half of the matches.
A key matchup will come at 149 pounds, where Missouri’s No. 10 Josh Wagner will take on No. 7 Aaron Martin. The Tigers hope Wagner can get back on track. He has been upset in his last two matches, including a loss to Old Dominion’s Kaylen Baxter in which Smith said he “didn’t look like Josh out there.”
The Tigers have not had their full starting lineup healthy since their Big 12-opening 31-11 win against Nebraska on Jan. 28. After their Feb. 11 loss to Iowa State, the Tigers said they hoped the returns of Tyler McCormick and Michael Chandler, who both missed that dual with injury, would help lift the team.
“Tyler will get better in another week, Matt (Pell) will be back in full strength, Mike will be back in full strength,” Ben Askren said at the time. “We’ll be ready to go into Big 12’s.”
McCormick and Chandler both returned to the lineup against Old Dominion, only to see three other Tiger starters unable to go.
Max Askren, who bounced back from the first loss of his career (he was pinned by Iowa State’s Kurt Backes) with a win over Old Dominion’s David Mendoza Wednesday, said that while it was great picking up a win and getting back on the mat after his loss, his team’s health is his primary concern right now.
“It’s time to get healthy and recouped,” he said.
After the Old Dominion dual, Smith said he wasn’t surprised that his team was challenged by the Monarchs. It should come as even less of a surprise if the Mocs give the Tigers all they can handle today.
“Everyone is going to come out (fired up) against us,” Smith said. “Everyone is going to want to knock us off.”