COLUMBIA — It looks like MU wrestling coach Brian Smith has to make some tough decisions this season.
He said his wrestlers at 125, 141 and 174 pounds are in close competitions to start the season.
The Tigers’ Black and Gold wrestle-offs on Sunday at Hearnes Center didn’t make Smith’s job any easier. Not only did those divisions remain up in the air, but Smith can also add 157 pounds to his list.
“It’s good, because there’s a lot of competition,” Smith said.
And competition was evident, as matches in each of these divisions could have easily gone either way.
In the 125-pound match, Tony Pescagalia received an additional point from riding time to defeat John Olanowski 3-2.
But if Pescagalia didn’t maneuver out of an aggressive double-leg takedown attempt by Olanowski in the third period, Olanowski’s hand might have been the one raised.
“You could wrestle them 10 times, they’d probably go 5-5,” Smith said.
Although the 141-pound matchup ended by fall, it was just as close.
Willie Saxton had control of the match after a takedown and nearfall gave him a 5-1 lead over Marcus Hoehn going into the second period.
It appeared as though Saxton began wrestling defensively to keep his lead while Hoehn pressed the action and pinned Saxton in the third.
“He’s real small and compact, which is similar to my build,” Hoehn said. “It makes it difficult because it’s almost like wrestling yourself.”
Hoehn acknowledged that, though he won his match, he has to continue to improve to solidify his spot in the lineup for MU’s first meet at 7 p.m., Nov. 9 at Rider (Lawrenceville N.J.) University.
“I would assume that I’m the one wrestling at Rider,” Hoehn said. “But, at the same time, it’s not like just because I win wrestle-offs that it’s my spot for the whole year.”
Coach Smith is interested to see how whoever his 141-pound representative is performs at Rider and then the next day at Hofstra (Hempstead, N.Y.) University.
“That first weekend we compete, we’re wrestling against the No. 2 and the No. 4 ranked guy in the country, so I’d like to see somebody step up and wrestle real well there,” Smith said. “So they’re going to be challenged right out of the gate.”
Emanuel Brooks won his 157-pound match against Michael Chandler 2-1 after relentlessly avoiding a series of takedown attempts in the final 30 seconds.
“I’ve been a starter in everything I’ve done since my freshman year of high school,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of hard riding the bench and I wasn’t looking forward to that this year.”
Smith said Chandler has beaten Brooks in practice the past five weeks, so the competition within the 157-pound class remains tight.
“They’re probably even right now,” Smith said.
Earlier in the day, it required overtime for Ryan Sonderegger to beat Joey Garrity for the first time. He later lost 5-2 against James Williamson in the 174-pound, how-do-we-replace-Ben Askren division.
“We’ll take two of them out to Rider and Hofstra and the Missouri Open and we’ll just keep figuring it out,” Smith said. “You’ll hope somebody will eventually mature and step up there.”
With seven members ranked in the top 25 overall and a No. 6 team ranking, MU wrestling is expected to be among the best programs in the NCAA.
And although the Black and Gold scrimmage didn’t offer many definitive answers within the 125, 141, 157 and 174-pound divisions, at least Smith knows his alternates won’t be much different from his starters.