COLUMBIA — Despite a No. 3 national ranking and an impressive 12-2 record, Missouri wrestler Nicholas Marable expects to get even better.
“Probably about 75 percent is where I’m at right now,” Marable said Friday night after his 165-pound victory over Bucknell’s Andy Rendos, who is ranked No. 20. “I think once National Duals and Big 12 come along, I’ll have a lot more improvement.”
Marable’s, who is ranked third by Wrestling International News, said he knew his performance against Rendos was not his best of the season. Yet he still managed to win and continue the momentum that saw the Tigers claim three consecutive weight classes and push the dual out of Bucknell’s reach for a 30-9 victory.
“He’s doing great,” MU coach Brian Smith said of Marable. “That’s a highly ranked kid that he just wrestled, and he (Marable) just consistently wins. He’s nothing fancy but he wins.”
However, Smith sais he still sees technical aspects that Marable needs to improve on to avoid losing matches in the future.
“He should not have lifted Rendos on that double,” he said. “If he would’ve just driven through it, he’d put the match away. That’s a learning thing though.”
Marable does not need to be reminded that his form throughout the match was not as good as what he has produced so far this season.
“I know for sure I didn’t have my best match,” he said. “I’m trying to get my weight back down after Christmas, and I felt a little tired.”
Marable has spent considerable time working on the weaknesses that have cost him matches in the past, keen to limit the kind of mistakes that he made on Friday night.
“I’ve been working a lot of different positions that I’m not as strong at,” he said. “I went up to the Olympic Training Centre this summer, so I think that’s got me a lot better.”
His rise to No. 3 in the country has not taken him by surprise. At the same time, he doesn’t think about it too much, preferring to focus on what he needs to do to win against his upcoming opponents. With the National Duals next week, he has his sights set on the Big 12 Conference wrestlers that are also ranked.
“It puts a lot of pressure on me,” he said. “It feels good to be ranked third, but I won’t let it get to me. I try not to look at the rankings. There are a lot of tough matches coming up.”
More important than his personal ranking is what he means to the team. MU assistant coach Shawn Charles recognizes the importance of having wrestlers that can improve their team’s score by winning under any circumstances.
“It’s good when you have guys like Marable that can go out there and win matches,” Charles said. “No matter who it’s against and how close it’s going to be, he’s still going to get his hand raised up at the end.”
Smith said he thinks Marable has been on the verge of something special since his career began. His improvement from his freshman season has been clear to everybody around him. After being stuck behind senior All-American Matt Pell at 165 pounds and two-time NCAA qualifier Michael Chandler at 157 pounds, Marable has established himself as a sophomore starter this season and one of the team’s leaders at 165.
“We knew he was this good,” Smith said, “and now he continues to win.”