I wanted to get some outsiders perspective on Mizzou wrestling and what that means to others around the country so I hit up bscaff over at BSD (The Penn St. SBN blog) and tossed a couple questions his way. Here is how it all went down:
Q1: What does Mizzou wrestling mean to you going into this years NCAAs?
BSCAFF: Hard ride. No cheap escapes. Everyone, with the possible exception of Lavion Mayes, rides hard. But that's probably not what you're asking.
First, you're the favorites. I read that if every wrestler finished according to his seed from the brackets published last Wednesday, Mizzou takes the title (97 points), ahead of Iowa (91), and Ohio State (85.5). So you've got that going for you, which is nice.
My second thought is that it's probably time to acknowledge the job Brian Smith's done in Columbia. I haven't always been his biggest fan, for two reasons: 1) he's shown a propensity for sitting wrestlers during the dual season to protect their seed in the recent past (e.g., Dom Bradley vs Gelogaev); and 2) all the Mizzou wrestlers are tall and long-armed. As a short-armed, square-ish dude, I'm predisposed to hate the skinny, long-armed guys. Thus, I'm inclined to dislike most of the Mizzou lineup on the basis of jealousy. Why do I have to penetrate on a shot, God? Why can't I just reach down and pick up a leg they do? WHY!!
Excuse me - back to the acknowledgement thing - Coach Smith's built a whale of a program. Mizzou's beaten Okie State for the Big 12 title your last year in the conference (and stomped them good at the dual this season). You've beaten Iowa twice at National Duals. And you took home the hardware from Iowa, in Carver Hawkeye Arena - freaking Carver Hawkeye! - this season. That's a difficult thing to accomplish. The guy's earned a pat on the back.
Last, it's that Mizzou winning the Championship would be good for wrestling. There are only five or six schools that have won the title since the 1950s. The Tigers holding the big boy trophy on Saturday night ought to provide a boost of energy to other coaches and ADs who aren't affiliated with the Big Ten, or Okie State, or Iowa State. So, Stay Gold, Pony Boy.
Q2: Cox vs McIntosh in the finals, who wins and why?
BSCAFF: I've seen this one three times in the last two seasons, and I haven't liked it. At all. The PSU faithful were ecstatic to see J'Den on the opposite half of the bracket, and we're all hoping someone else knocks him off before he gets to the final. And that's all I have to say about that.
Q3. What does Mizzou need to do as a team to win the title?
BSCAFF: Two things: 1) have a great Friday. Friday morning the quarters get wrestled. Win your quarterfinal matches, and the team point totals start ballooning away from the pack because each wrestler gets placement points. Those placement points are huge. The wrestler who falls 1 win short of placing usually ends up with somewhere around 2.5 team points. The dude who finishes 8th is 6-ish team points. It pays to get your guys on the podium, and the easiest way to do that is to win your quarterfinals matches. 2) Bonus. Mizzou has a ton of top seeds. Those top seeds need to dominate their opening round matches. One fall is worth 2 bonus points - or, roughly equivalent to a wrestler who finishes 2-2. It's kinda nuts, but it pays to have studs. The good news is that Mizzou has them.
Q4. Seriously, is it weird not to be the big dogs going into the tournament?
BSCAFF: I've been a PSU wrestling fan since the 1980s. Being the prohibitive favorite from 2012 - 2014 was unusual, and not that much fun, actually. The most fun was 2011 (PSU's first title since 1953). That year for Penn State set up similarly to this season for Mizzou. Iowa had just won the title three years in a row, and everyone was sick of them. Penn State squeaked out a Big Ten championship from Iowa (the favorite). Cornell and Iowa were given as good (or better) odds of taking the Championship home as PSU. And then Friday, 9-seed Quentin Wright upset the 1-seed in the quarterfinals, and followed that up with a pin of Iowa's 5-seed in the semi-finals (who had beaten him earlier in the year) to make his first national final. Probably my favorite wrestling fan memory. And if Joey Lavallee knocks off Isiah Martinez and James Green to make the final at 157lbs, as Mizzou takes home the team title, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Q5. Lastly, would you rather see a Mizzou team champion than Iowa or tOSU?
BSCAFF: Yes. One thousand times yes. For the love of all things Holy, please win this stupid thing. Seriously - if the Tigers slip up and let those two fight it out on Saturday night, I'll be praying for a meteor the size of Alaska to hurtle towards Earth at 6 million miles per hour, with an impact centered in my back yard, and an ETA of 5pmET. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. Go Tigers. M-I-Z...