UPDATE: I think it's pretty safe to call this one. After a lovely 688 votes, Askren takes it easily, 69%-30%.
It's finally here, the finals of the month-long Mizzou 25 contest, the tournament to decide the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years.
Mizzou 25 was been set up in four 8-athlete regions: the Norm Stewart Region (basketball), the Larry Smith Region (football), the Joann Rutherford Region (all sports), and the Harold "Spider" Burke Region (fan favorites). After 28 matchups, we had our regional champions: Anthony Peeler, Chase Daniel, Ben Askren, and Pig Brown. Two lopsided semifinals later, we have our finalists. As expected, it's come down to Askren vs Daniel. (Click here for the bracket and here for previous Mizzou 25 posts/polls.)
03-04: 32-5, National Runner-Up
04-05: 34-3, National Runner-Up
05-06: 45-0, National Champion
06-07: 42-0, National Champion
Career Record: 153-8
Two National Titles
The Boy: Everything Chase Daniel is to the Mizzou Football team, Ben Askren was to Mizzou Wrestling. He's easily the best wrestler in Mizzou history, and one of the nation’s best wrestlers of the decade. All he did was win the last 87 matches of his career. He’s a two-time national champion at 174 pounds (and two-time national wrestler of the year) for a school devoid of many titles, and only OSU’s Chris Pendleton prevented him from being a four-time national champion.
During a redshirt season at Mizzou that was encouraging but did not come close to preparing Mizzou fans for what laid ahead in his career, he began to develop his own brand of ‘funk’, utilizing his lankiness, creating a wrestling style that continuously put his opponents off-balance, and being good enough at that style to rack up 91 career pins, 3rd-best in NCAA history, and win two Hodge Trophies, wrestling's version of the Heisman. That's right--he's the Archie Griffin of wrestling!
Askren is one of the greatest athletes (possibly the greatest), personalities, and afros in Mizzou history, so much so that he's begun appearing on local commercials endorsing local companies. When's the last time a Mizzou wrestler had that sort of stature?
chitowntiger: I know I've waxed poetically on Ben before, but I'm not going to pass up a chance like this. When Coach Smith started, everyone told me to believe in him, because he'll do great things. Being a Catholic and a Cubs fan, I'm not short on faith, so I bought in on Brian. Ben is who made me proud of that faith. Ben is who let me smugly say to the guy wearing an Iowa wrestling shirt, "Yeah, I was a manager for Mizzou wrestling. Have you seen how we're doing this year?" Ben is who started a wave of fantastic out-of-state recruits. Ben is someone that all wrestling fans and Tiger fans should be proud of, because he is an excellent representative of our sport and our school.
The Beef: My only lament about Askren's career is that he never got to beat that absolute CRAP out of Hendricks at 165...I would have gone almost ANYWHERE to see that happen.
My biggest memory about Askren was actually in a match I never saw at the National Duals in 2007. Askren moved UP in weight and took on #2 ranked Roger Kish of MN at 184. I remember The Boy telling me he had defeated Kish 5-4. To me, that was insane, knowing that Askren had actually certified to start the season at 165, but wrestled at 174 all that time, but that he could go up even further and still beat the #2 wrestler in the country at that weight...just insane.
The Boy: Chase Daniel is quite simply the realization of all the hope we’ve ever had for a Mizzou player or a Mizzou team. We wanted Corby Jones or Brad Smith to get Heisman hype, and Daniel finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2007. We yearned for Corby’s teams and Brad’s teams to break through that 8-win barrier and put together a memorable season with as few "What If’s" as possible...and under Daniel’s guidance, Mizzou simply went out and won 12 games in 2007, earning its first #1 ranking in 47 years in the process.
We all know the Chase Daniel story by now. He was raised to play football. While most kids his age were learning to drive, he was learning the intricacies of the spread offense. Every time he went to the bathroom in his Southlake home, he was surrounded by inspirational quotes from Vince Lombardi, et al. He was born for stardom. And he proved himself a man of his word, staying committed to Mizzou even when Texas came calling.
If Brad Smith saved the Pinkel Era with his performance in the 2005 Independence Bowl, Chase Daniel saved the moment that saved the Pinkel Era. With Smith strug-a-ling mightily against Iowa State and stinging from a cheap shot, Daniel entered the game with Mizzou down 10. Two no-huddle drives later, it was tied, and Mizzou won in OT. They wouldn't have qualified for a bowl without that win. It was at that moment that people realized, "Hey...I sure am gonna miss Brad Smith, but I think our future's pretty bright." (That's what I was saying, anyway...ahem.)
There's really no need to rehash much of the last two years, is there? Almost 8500 total yards and 70 TDs? 20 wins? A New Year's Day bowl? A #1 ranking? The highest expectations ever for a Mizzou team (in 2008)? You know the story. You're along for the ride. This short, squatty gunslinger from Southlake has transformed the Mizzou program, and he's not done yet.
fltfire: I'll never forget snagging the mizzou magazine from my parents when Chase signed. "The Chase is on" read the cover and I began to believe that Mizzou football was actually going to get over that 8 win hump. Although well into my 20's I remember feeling like a little kid reading about the possibilities of Mizzou's future with Daniel. Never before was I more excited about a football recruit and never has any Mizzou recruit lived up to the hype as fully as Daniel. As I get older it will only be more and more difficult to surpass that feeling that stays in my memory. I can tell you exactly where I was, down to the chair I was sitting in, when I first heard Chase had committed. As I age it will only be more and more difficult to replicate that feeling.
Who's the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years?
Ben Askren (595 votes)
Chase Daniel (235 votes)
830 total votes