1. The dual debut of Brock Mauller at 149
Brock Mauller’s dual debut is one of the most unfortunate, yet interesting dual debuts across NCAA wrestling this season. Grant Leeth — who was ranked #4 in the nation before a season ending injury — was holding down the 149 spot, so Mauller seemed likely to stay in redshirt this season. After Leeth’s injury it made the most sense for the team to wrestle Mauller as he is ready to make an impact. In his first few months of the season Mauller has amassed a 13-1 record and defeated two ranked wrestlers including splitting with #8 Jarrett Degen. His dual debut will come against Jason Estevez (6-4) who is solid, but unspectacular. It should be a solid win for Mauller and it will be interesting to see how loud the Missouri faithful get for the graduate of Father Tolton Catholic (A Columbia Private High School).
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2. #11 Zach Elam encounters a stiff test from #13 Jake Gunning.
While one Freshman is just making his debut in the line-up, #11 Zach Elam has been going toe-to-toe with some very solid heavyweights and has amassed a 13-1 record to go along with the #11 ranking in the country. Elam is extremely tough on top and his length makes it difficult for his opponents to derive leverage in scrambles or to take him down. Jake Gunning is a two-time NCAA qualifier who is a mobile heavyweight. He should prove to be able to match Elam on his feet, but will likely struggle from bottom. Gunning is coming off a big win over formerly #7 ranked Matt Voss (George Mason) and should bring momentum into the bout. I like Elam to take care of business here and get a close win over Gunning in a match that holds a lot of significance for both conference and NCAA tournament seeding.
3. How Cam Valdiviez and Alan Hart do filling in against solid competition?
125 lb Cam Valdiviez and 133 lb Alan Hart have both had a lot of success this season, but due to the presence of #14 Colby Smith and #9 John Erneste in the Tiger line-up have not been granted many varsity opportunities. Both get the chance to prove themselves against solid opponents here as Valdiviez will draw 2017 NCAA qualifier Kyle Akins and Hart will see Derek Spann who is 7-0 on the season. Both bouts should be a lot of fun and could show us a glimpse of the Tigers potential future plans, especially at 133 as Erneste is a senior.
4. Will Dylan Wisman continue his hot streak?
Dylan Wisman, the 184 lb wrestler for the Tigers, had a slow start going only 2-4 through the early part of the season, but has won his last six matches including five wins with bonus. I expect Wisman to notch a win vs. Logan Rill who is solid, but am unsure if the bonus point streak will continue. It is something that certainly bears watching.
5. Can Jarrett Jacques go with Alex Smythe?
Another weight class and another true-freshman starter for the Missouri Tigers. Jarrett Jacques is 12-4 on the season and has been very solid for the Tigers, but has yet to notch a ranked win. Alex Smythe is not currently ranked, but has spent time in the rankings this season and was a member of the United States U23 World Team this year. He is a tremendous counter wrestler on his feet and is a big 157. I am excited to see if Jacques can get a big win here. I would predict a close Smythe victory in this bout.