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Five things to watch as Missouri wrestling faces Ohio

Missouri wrestlinglooks to extend its winning streak to 31.

1. Missouri’s Dack Punke will see another legitimate test against past NCAA qualifier Shakur Laney

Punke had an excellent South Beach duals. He amassed a 3-1 record and got a nice win over No. 19 Devin Schroder from Purdue. Laney is currently ranked No. 1 in the MAC conference. This bout with Laney will be an excellent barometer to see if Punke can consistently be a top-twenty quality wrestler. Laney is the 2017 MAC conference champion at this weight and is extremely strong, stocky and explosive.

Punke will have a length advantage, which will likely play to his advantage in scramble situations and from the top position. This is a crucial match for conference tournament seeding and for Punke as he attempts to establish himself in his redshirt-freshman season.

2. Missouri high school stars appear for Ohio at 149 and 184

Ohio has been recruiting the state of Missouri hard since Missouri entered the MAC and that has paid dividends in the form of former Eureka high school standout Alec Hagan (two-time state champion and four-time state finalist in Class 4) at 149 and former Willard stud Hunter Yeargan (third, first and second his last three seasons in Class 3) at 184. Hagan was an highly touted recruit and is 11-8 in his sophomore season. He will match up with No. 12 Brock Mauller who is having a special freshman season for Missouri. Yeargan will battle with No. 15 Dylan Wisman for the Tigers. Although both Missouri wrestlers are favored. expect these two Bobcats to have a little extra motivation for this bout and to leave it all out there.

3. Big test for No. 18 Jarrett Jacques as he faces No. 16 Zac Carson

This is the marquee bout of this dual meet. Both Jacques and Carson are excellent scramblers and leg attackers who sometimes struggle with the concept of defense. Expect this bout to be a high-scoring slugfest. At this point, 157 is inarguably the best weight class in the MAC as far as top-heavy depth. These two are ranked third (Jacques) and second (Carson) in the conference, but there is very little in terms of talent separating them. This would be a huge win for conference and national-tournament seeding. Look for Jacques to get a big win here in a match that will be worth the price of admission.

4. No 16 Zach Elam will get a stiff test at heavyweight from Zach Parker

Elam started the season lights-out at 14-1, but has had a rough last five matches (1-4). Tough stretches are not uncommon for true freshmen and heavyweight can be a particularly tough weight to stay consistent at throughout the season due to the amount of close matches the styles at that weight tend to lend to. I expect Elam to right the ship, and he will have to against Parker. Parker is a past NCAA qualifier and is extremely good from neutral. Parker does, however, struggle with mat wrestling, which is a strength for Elam. Elam is especially salty from top. Elam has struggled with lighter, more mobile heavyweights this season at times, but his top wrestling is good enough that I believe he will notch a close win. This is a huge match and will be one worth watching as both guys are likely to be NCAA tournament qualifiers.

5. Will Missouri match Ohio’s intensity in this dual meet?

Missouri is coming off a great South Beach duals and will likely be training super hard throughout their next couple duals, as success in March is the end goal. Couple that with a very young team starting four freshmen, and a motivated Ohio team that is both at home and ranked second in the MAC and you have the recipe for an interesting dual meet. Missouri is a big favorite overall and will likely score enough bonus to win the dual either way, but taking costly upsets and close losses will certainly hurt their seeding in March. I expect to see Missouri come out and wrestle well enough to get a lot of close wins here, but I doubt we see anything resembling their best stuff here.

Missouri’s dual against Ohio begins at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Jan. 11. It can be streamed online at All rankings are from FloWrestling and the MAC rankings. Follow @MaelSean for live updates and analysis during the dual.